It’s the first day of another year. It is an age old belief that you should do all things you want to do on the 1st day so you’ll continue to do more of it in the whole of the year. And so I am writing this post today.

Now, coming to the point, I have been contemplating on this for quite a while as to why am I here on this community?
I know the most obvious answer is because it is the kindest corner on the internet and who doesn’t like being around kind people. But we all have reasons just beyond that for being a part of this. Some of you are already disciples of Swamiji and do every bit to be of service to your Guru. You want to express your devotion, love and respect by helping just a few others, holding hands and walking the path. Other who are still not initiated are here to find their way to him, to get under the umbrella of his love and guidance. And some of you might be here just to figure out if this could be the path you take that you gives you answers to your questions.

My reasons are partly everything I mentioned above. I was surprised to learn that I joined this community in September 2020. Not sure why I believed until today that I came here only after I lost my father, to find answers/ help or anything I could hold on to help me live sanely. I remember coming across Swamiji’s videos from the ashram where the river flowed in the background and he talked about everything from ‘Who are you?’ to ‘Food’ and ‘Relationships’ and I was hooked. I might have watched a lot of his videos spanning over a period of a year and then I forgot everything about it. Life moved on and unlike many of you, I was not in search of a Guru or was even walking the spiritual path in any way.

I was only full of questions and more questions. And the questions were on God, if He existed and if He is all the kind and compassionate that people say He is, why is He not doing anything about the injustice and misery that is prevailing in the world. Those days I was too young to understand what my father meant when he told “Even a leaf moves by God’s instructions, everything is his grace.” I mistook it as if He is in so much control of everything why does He not come to protect the people dying in bomb blasts, why is he not feeding the poor stray dog who is searching bin after bin for just a few scraps of food, why did he make those on the streets blind and why did he not give any grief to those living in spaces so huge that could be a shelter for 100s of homeless. Oh and a lot more questions. Somewhere these questions started weighing me down, the fact that I was so tiny to not be able to make any difference did hurt me and then when I knew everything is His doing, I started thinking He punishes us for our past Karma and that gave rise to fear. I knew nothing about praying except a few shlokas that I would murmur like a parrot and in times of need, I would beg to Him and bombard him with a lot of desires. Those were innocent desires mostly. Desire fulfilled – I forgot and moved on, desire unfulfilled – I would think He is punishing me.

I grew older, realizing I had a heart that would ache more than it should and this I thought is my punishment from my past karma. I felt everyone’s pain and that was my biggest pain. I was constantly sad and cried a bit too much. I’d cry for the ant that unknowing got washed away in the flush. When I fed the stray dogs, I continued to think constantly about how they’re bearing the scorching heat, is there sufficient water for them to drink, if the little pups are safe and not run over by vehicles. When I saw beggars holding little children who are so malnourished, I felt guilty when I got good food to eat. Worst of it, people around thought I was faking unnecessary empathy so I had to hide it mostly. There was a steep flyover that I used to climb up and down to reach the bus stop that took me to my office. I always saw a man pushing a trolley of flower pots climbing the steep slope. I was so inclined to help him so his struggle would reduce. This was when I was nearly 23 years old. One day I thought I’d just do it ignoring the thoughts of what others may make out of it. Then suddenly I feared what if he mistook my kindness and tries to misbehave? I let it slide.. One morning I saw an old lady brooming the huge garden grounds in front of our building. The sun was scorching and she paused every 5 mins for gasping breath and continued. I in my mind thought, if only I could go and help her a little, that would make her so happy and will make her life a little better. But wait, what will the people who see the garden from the surrounding 10 buildings think! They’d think I am showing off, or they might think I’m a loser. I hated the fact that I was surrounded by people who didn’t care about being kind and I had to fit in.

Years later, I stumbled upon a video by Swamiji. Though I don’t remember what the video was about, I remember binge watching and then  recollected having see his videos earlier. I went on to search more about him when I found I then found the book ‘If truth be told’, finished it in a day and to be honest I was very moved by his story. It was giving me all the feelings from sadness (from his struggle) to inspiration (from his hard work) and faith (from his eagerness to see God). Back then I wasn’t so active here, I silently read the posts for free and liked to learn about other’s spiritual journeys. Slowly I learnt Swamiji initiates people and guides them on their spiritual journey taking them closer to God. Now comes the dilemma. All the kindness and compassion I had within for so long may have got me to the kindest corner, but where am I heading? I know nothing about the journey of walking towards God, except the things my father taught. I too want to be guided so I am under the umbrella and above all, I want to meet this person who glance alone heals many and then they carry his grace within. I too want to experience all this beauty. But will I be disloyal then towards our acharya who initiated me a few days back? I know nothing about him and his ways don’t inspire me as much as Swamiji’s does and I don’t know if my values and beliefs aligns with that of his. But it’s the lineage I am born in that makes me follow it, be a Ramanuja dasi (servant of the lord Ramanuja Desikan) who is dedicating her life in the service of Vishnu. While the destination may be the same, the paths are massively different. One is full of several conditions that one should strictly follow in this tradition, while I like Swamiji’s path of discovering your own truth. While one path seems to be that of forced devotion, the other is that of the freedom to decide the path you wish to take, just anything that makes you feel true devotion.

Although I don’t still have answers to many questions after being here, I have gained the courage to keep going. Although I still don’t know ways to put all the compassion within to use, I have found many others like me and learn from their ways. I realized devotion has no space for any fear. I am starting to hold the compassion that has no attachments and unraveling my true nature which was shielded beneath all the muddy ego. I am really not bothered about how far I still am from the finish line, I am still not worried about if I will ever have his grace or not, it’s enough for me that now it feels like I am at least walking on a path that feels right. 

I wish you all a very happy and peace filled 2023.