From the 10th to the 23rd of June I was in Paramahamsa Nithyananda's Ashram in Bidadi, near Bangalore (also called Dhyanapeetam). The end result of that experience was the opening of my Ananda Ghanda chakra, the unequivocal acceptance of Swamiji as my guru, and a radical turn in my spiritual development. Yet all I have managed to write about my time in the ashram was "I <3 ashram living", a small scratch compared to the pages of drivel I manage to write on the other aspect of my travels.
In truth, the experience itself was too grand to be put into words, let alone squeeze into a blog post. It was an experience, that alone speaks volumes, at least in the book of a person who's experiential spiritual life was all but non-existant, but fat from intellectual to-ing and fro-ing.
Before I return to the Bidadi Ashram tonight, I will sit myself down in this seedy Internet cafe in Bangalore, and I will not stop typing till I have my experiences written down.
How to Disappear Completely
Three years ago I walked away from my life, which at the time included great prospects in the web programming line, a great fiancee to be, and a great circle of friends. Within the framework of the accepted means of living in Singapore, it was great. But it was not enough, somehow, and staying in that state was not an option I could tolerate. I had abandoned many pursuits in the past, it was a Daniel thing, to pick an interest up with burning fascination, to explore it with fanaticism and with great success, only to have it dropped and left behind in boredom. My family calls it my "flashes in the pan". It wasn't a very responsible way of living, but in most cases I simply lose all motivation of continuing once the interest wanes.
I had fully expected, having left my life at the time, to be instantly connected to the next interest in life. Trouble was, I had run out of options and avenues and interests and attractions to explore.
What followed was three years in depression, low energy, general aimlessness, and isolation from friends. Yea, I was lost.
I can't explain what happened next, it seemed like a very self-sustaining kind of depression, the kind that can swallow all the years of your life, yet I got myself out by deciding that things should change.
The first thing I did was to resume communication with friends. Through conversations with the long lost, and amazement at how much they had progressed in life, at how much life I had missed while I was under, I resolved to get on with life and to rejoin the human race. But before I did, I would spend all my savings and resources on one last ditch effort to find my meaning and direction in life.
It would be a trip to India, I decided, for as long and as far as my savings would take me.
Why not India? Most certainly it had a great endorsement by writers such as Madame Blavatsky, who's book: The Secret Doctrine, I was reading at the time, one of a plethora of books I've read in my life in an attempt to connect to the divine, something which I had never experienced even in my time in the Roman Catholic church, or in any cut and dried religion that I had knowledge of.
And while sourcing for ashrams and temples to visit to India, while splicing together an itinery for travel, I come across a young tamil mystic speaking on You-Tube.
Paramahamsa Nithyananda's words were simple but they wreaked havoc inside of me. Every sentence made so much sense, he put things in a perspective that I've felt I've always known, yet somehow did not connect correctly to lead to the symphony of synapses he was firing in my brain.
The truth can be known, he said. The truth is an experience, not an intellectual understanding. So why are you searching for it intellectually? The truth is inside you, so why are you seeking outside means of understanding it?
I got extremely hooked to viewing the Life Bliss Videos on youtube. I must have watched half the collection. More importantly I started meditating with an intense hunger. It was a clumsy form of meditation pieced together by the hints I got from watching the video snippets, but it was already a radical move for a person that is more inclined to reading about it than to jump into the act itself. Listening to Swamiji's words somehow gave me a motivation to step forward.
I tracked down the Singapore Center where I met some really beautiful people who were the devotees and the staff for the center, who's Life Bliss courses turned my clumsy meditations into a more complete process.
There were doubts in my mind of course. You can't expect an intellectual based blind person like me to recognise and see beyond the maya and identify an enlightened master in a click of a finger! My main problems at the time were the fees involved in taking up the courses. Why weren't the courses free if they were for the greater good of all? Why limit eligible participants to those that are financially able only? More importantly, I had felt the tightness of my savings for the Indian trip and I had doubts as to whether I could afford attending the courses.
The answers came very beautifully! Shortly after attending the first course (to which I had an unequivocal spiritual experience) I receive the exact amount of the fees from the course from my mum! She had won a big sum from the lottery and was sharing her winnings with me. I had attended the first course for free!
And while signing up for the follow up course, my mum would win the lottery two times, twice in a weekend! Which meant she had won three times in a month, a statistical improbability to say the least! And for icing on the cake, while going through my old bags to decide what luggage to take for the trip, I come across a great wad of forgotton cash. $200!
To say that I had turned into a dumbfounded believer would be an understatement!
There would be other coincidences, as if encouraging and guiding me along a path I had finally stumbled upon, that had been waiting for me to set foot on my whole life. And while on the path, to be guided down the road to an exciting future.
Armed with this I began my trip to India, and so started the journey that has been recorded here in this blog.
My life had taken a turn for the immensely exhillarating. To this day I still look back in amazement at how quickly one's life can change, and more importantly, how completely one's mindset is able to be turned around!
In the Ashram
When first I set foot in the Bidadi Ashram I was pretty intimidated to say the least! I felt like a stranger amongst the ashramites. They dressed in white, and were beautiful and near-perfect physically! In the daylight they looked like angels on earth. More importantly they radiated a happiness that did not seem dependant on anything except the happiness itself.
I felt inadequate, awkward. I felt like running away! Alone and unsociable for three years, and having an introverted personality to start with, and now thrown amidst such a community of individuals! The only thing stopping me was a talk by Swamiji I heard on youtube. In it he warned that when we approach the master we will feel like running away. But stay the course, it's just your ego trying to protect itself. Stay the course despite your fears.
So I stayed. I found some work in the temple having befriended Tiagaraja, and Mureili, who worked there. Tiagaraja became my unoffical boss, instructing me on temple duties and doling out the workload. He somehow seemed to know that I would take refuge in my duties at the start. I had a healthy dose Ananda seva to pre-occupy me and take my mind of my social awkwardness. But gradually he would lessen the load, instead giving me more opportunities for meditating under the sacred Banyan Tree, the spiritual center of the ashram.
Swamiji had spoken about the "energy field" of the ashram and of the banyan tree. Though not directly feeling it as a solid entity, I could definitely notice the change in the clutter of the thoughts in my head, and the intensity that I could ramp up my meditations in the shade of that sacred being.
And it is while meditating under the boughs of that tree that this intellectual blind person finally experienced the spiritual. It was while pondering over the truths spoken by Swamiji himself.. in his words:
"You were never born,
You will never die,
You are always here."
.. that I have finally crossed over from the realm of blind, intellectual theories of the spiritual realities, to a connected understanding from unequivocal experience and truth.
I will not disclose the details of the experience except to my closest friends. Sharing it reduces the experience to the banal intellectual level, and forms an attachment to the experience which impedes the progress to further experiences.
In the days following that experience, just touching the tree itself would result in an unstoppable physical reaction from me. I would burst into tears and cry and laugh at the same time in inexplicable emotions. I would cling on to it seemingly forever while experiencing beautiful sensations of energy flow.
To this day I long to be under that tree again.
The courses I attended there were the Bakti Spurana Program and the Healer's Initiation.
During course time, the ashram exploded from a peaceful retreat to a bustling and very overpopulated crowd! In three years did Swamiji start his Life Bliss Foundation and grow it to such a phenomenal level. The speed of its growth is unparallelled and evidenced by the attence for both courses bursting at the seams.
And the attendants of the courses. Let's just say its such a normal occurance to have strange looks from fellow participants who are strangers - the feeling that I had met or seen these people before in some forgotton past kept cropping up! And from the glances returned it seemed that the feeling was very mutual. And when exchanging experiences with fellow devotees I find that strange coincidences occuring in their lives are the order of the day for them as well!
It was during these courses that I met Masha.. we became what she calls "Spiritual Friends" ever since we buddied up during a meditation exercise involving the staring into each other's eyes to find the divine in a person. What a blessing it was to have met her and to have us travel Tamil Nadu together for a week or two!
But the best was yet to come.. during the last day of the Bakti Spurana course I set eyes on Swamiji for the first time. He made a surprise appearance and gave us an impromptu energy darshan.
Meeting My Guru
Of course I was one of the hundreds who queued to have this darshan. Never mind the fact that I had an earlier flash of deja'vu of being in the same situation before. To top it off it seemed very strange that he kept throwing glances at me! I know this because my eyes had adamantly settled on his form and did not leave him till it was my turn! They were not very friendly glances, if anything they looked like glares of consternation.
It put a very real fear in me. What was I doing there? What did I do wrong? What is wrong with me? Why is he mad? Is he mad??? Should I leave the queue? The closer I got to him the more my mind raced and the more unsettled I became.
What happened during my Darshan? First you have to understand what happens during darshan. The devotee kneels in front of the Master and the Master presses his thumb on the devotee's third eye while the devotee receives the energy with closed eyes and palms together in front of chest in devotion. This is done without any words spoken by the Master usually.
Next you will also need to understand what I knew about myself at the time. I knew that I was a very mental person trapped in my own little world of theories and assumptions. That if only I looked beyond that Maya I would strengthen my experiences. I knew that my heart was a shrivelled, unused and very much locked up energy center compared to my brain.
When it was my turn for darshan i knelt in front of him with eyes closed and arms outstretched not knowing what to expect. I felt his thumb on my forehead but was very surprised indeed when I felt another hand pushing my hands down from in front of my chest. I felt Swamiji's finger pressing my heart chakra!
He kept it there for as long as his thumb was on my third eye. When it was done I opened my eyes and he spoke to me! It was a very quiet voice but it seemed to penetrate the blaring bhajan music playing in the background without any difficulty, almost like hearing words inside your head. "Are you coming for the Healer's Initiation Course?" he asked. I nodded. "Good, that will help."
(The healer's initiation course is where Swamiji open's your Ananda Gandha Chakra to allow you to channel his energy for healing others and yourself.What is the Ananda Gandha? This site explains it.)
When I returned to my seat I was one shaken individual. How did he know about my heart?? I kept asking himself. Who is he?? WHAT is he? My mind felt like a racecar going downhill without brakes.
Later on I would exchange this experience with Masha, the way we usually exchange experiences, like giddy schoolchildren who discovered the play ground for the first time both trying to make ourselves heard. She had wanted to attend the Healer's Initiation course as well but did not have the course pre-requisites. In her darshan with Swamiji, Swamiji smiled at her as if he already knew her and told her to attend the course anyway!
Opening the Ananda Gandha
During the healer's initiation course, Swamiji blessed us with a miracle. Sitting there in an overcrowded hall, listening to him speak in Tamil while a translater feeds the english version through headphones..
"Close your eyes." he said. "Let your Kundalini Energy be released". Those were the words. That was the technique. Of all the complicated procedures of awakening kundalini energy I have read in all the dusty books.. and all he does is to simply command it to awaken, to a hall of hundreds.
And inside me, a stirring. No visualisation was required, no action on my part. No preparation, no chanting, no mudras, no breathing exercises, no mantras. Just being quiet, just accepting and watching in awe inside at the changes and the stirrings.
All around me I hear convulsions, babbling, people falling over in fits as their bodies fight with the energy. My experience itself was thankfully unimpeded. Just a cool gentle flowing felt behind my third eye and Sahasrara chakra, and a stirring in my Mooladara, but strong enough to be beyond doubt.
The real experience began later! After eating dinner, while washing my plate, I suddenly came to the realization I was washing my plate for ages! I had somehow been sucked into the act of swishing the water over and over. It felt that I was extremely high on some kind of narcotic! There was time dilation, time slowed down, experiences and sensations coming in such abundance I had to walk extremely slowly and move with extreme deliberation just to keep up with them! I felt super alive, super alert, super drugged out! Eventually I managed to return to my seat. All around were evidence of people in the same experience! Drugged out, in a daze. The music started, I began dancing in my seat, a very gentle dance. I hardly moved my body but it felt like a very intense dance! Every motion filled with so much sensation.
He did it again the second night of the course. It turns out awakening the Kundalini Shakti in a person was needed to open the Ananda Gandha.
And while I was in drugged out in Kundalini bliss he brought the spot to focus. A region between the Manipura chakra and the Anahata. When it opened there was pain. A sharp aching that felt like a surgical incision. Swamiji sealed it open with an energy darshan. When it was my turn he smiled at me knowingly.
I have a special spot in my body now. It throbs when I think of my guru, and the energy pouring out heals anyone and anything. Besides healing myself of my knee joint pains and my skin irritations it is also healing my heart and preparing it to blossum. By putting my awareness on it I reach such peace and bliss in such a short time as to be almost instantaneous.
I have a new body. I hardly recognised it the last time I saw myself in the mirror. It looks so much younger and very very perfect. I wonder now if I look as beautiful as the other ashramites in the sun in their white clothes and perfect smiles.
I have a new mind. It no longer goes around and around in circles like a dog chasing its tail. Every day it grows more quiescent and controlled. I think about the thoughts, obsessions and knots my mind used to tie itself into in the past and I can't help but marvel and be in gratitude.
I have a new life. My eyes water when I think about how much bigger existance is than what my mind insisted it would be. Every new day brings such hope and adventure as to be downright unpredictable and exciting! Every day a new lesson learnt and a new step forward in my evolution. I hardly feel the need to read my usual fare of fantasy fiction, I am living it!
Most importantly I have a guru. His name is Paramahamsa Nithyananda. He is 4 years younger than me. He was born in Tiruvannamalai in Tamil Nadu. Because of him I have realised now that all these years I have been searching, in my own way, for something inexplicable. A search that finally culminated in my India trip. When one is searching, it is more important to know what you are searching for, than to find it. Here in the Bidadi ashram, I finally know what I was searching for all along - all this while when I was searching, I was searching for HIM. And I have found him. And for the first time in my life I feel a deep belonging, I feel I have arrived. I feel a great sense of meaning and direction. I have finally found someone who truly understands me when I throw myself at his feet and tell him that I want to go home.