Sunday, October 18, 2020

"The Quest for Truth" - (By Madhavi Garu)

In the book Ramana Periya Puranam, Ganesan Garu says that, “Fire is a very significant symbol. Its nature is twofold: as heat, it can destroy and as light, it reveals.” This is how I feel about Bhagavan and Nannagaru in my life. Bhagavan as Jnana Agni (fire) has been destroying my destiny and Nannagaru has been revealing the light of wisdom. Ganesan Garu goes on to say that this is grace and it has been showered, no - poured upon me in abundance. 

Bhagavan came to my life around 1991 or 92. I was in my 12th or in the first year of college. My mother and a few of her friends along with Sri Chikkala Krishna Rao Garu (an author of Bhagavan’s books in Telugu) happened to visit Arunachalam. My mother brought home a big picture of Bhagavan ( the famous bust picture of Bhagavan also known as the Welling busts) and placed it in our Pooja (prayer) room along with big pictures of Shirdi Sai Baba and Puttaparthi Sai Baba. Being a teenager, with half-knowledge I was not happy that a picture of Puttaparthi Sai Baba was placed in the prayer room and on top of it, there was this picture of this old man whose eyes were powerfully staring at me. 
I was very upset with my mother that she was placing pictures of human beings in the pooja room. I got really mad and I shouted at my mother as to why she was placing pictures of people, first Puttaparthi Sai Baba and now this old man. I told her that she should remove the picture of this old man. She said I shouldn’t be speaking that way and that he was a great saint who used to live in Arunachalam and left his body in the ’50s.

I don’t come from any sort of orthodox family. My knowledge of Mahabharata and Ramayana came from TV series telecasted at that time. My understanding was that the prayer room was meant for placing pictures of Gods and it’s a place to light a lamp once daily in the morning and cook special food for festivals and offer it.

A few months later, I happened to go to the railway station along with my father. There, a cart selling books and magazines stopped in front of me. In one corner of the cart, I happened to notice a book with a picture of Bhagavan on it. I avoided looking at the book, but the bookseller was not moving from there. I finally ended up buying that book. It happened to be the only book on spirituality and it was in English. Once home, I started reading it. I don’t remember what book it is, but I found it very interesting and kept going back to it. I was astonished about the concept of body and mind and how there was something more powerful than all this that we see every day.

As a child, one of my favourite thing to do was to sit, look at the sky and use my mind to make up imaginary scenarios where I was the main character in the scene. I would sit and do this imaginary play for hours and just imagine and talk to myself. Every time, I would end this imaginary drama in my head with a thought that one day someone would come along and say that this was wrong and there was no enjoyment in doing this and behold the book said exactly that. Even though it brought an end to my favourite activity, I kept going back to the book.

A few months later, Mani aunty from Bheemavaram moved into the first floor of my aunt (atha) house. She was a devotee of Nannagaru and started telling my aunt about Nannagaru and his teachings. She used to take my aunt to Satsang. My aunt started sharing all teachings from Satsang with me. I used to ask her a lot of questions, she would answer the ones she knew and the rest she would ask Mani aunty and communicate them back to me.

(2014 Guru Poornima - Usha Garu, Nikith, Mahit. In the back - me, Annapoorna (Atha's sister) Jyothi(atha))

I don’t remember when I first met Nannagaru. I remember seeing him for the first time from far away at PSN Raju Garu’s house. I was studying my bachelors at that time so I used to not get that many opportunities to go to Satsang. Satsang happened in the morning time on weekdays and I had to be in college at that time. But, that quest to know was always there and whenever I read something about Bhagavan or heard Nannagaru’s talks there was some peace and a desire to know/learn more.

Around this time Rama Krishna Matt opened in Vizag. They had a bookstore which had a variety of books in English (probably the only store in Vizag with books on philosophy). To find out more I started reading books on Rama Krishna Paramahamsa, Vivekananda and Jiddu Krishna Murthy but they didn’t capture my interest as much as Bhagavan’s books did. Even though I had questions, I still would go back to Bhagavan’s book as they were the only ones which made ultimate sense and kept my interest. The other book that I found in the book store was Osho Rajneesh. In terms of Advaita Vedanta, his explanation satisfied me a bit and helped me find some answers.

After completing my bachelors I went to Tirupathi to pursue my MBA. I used to live in a hostel and didn’t have much access to go outside. Whenever I had free time, I used to continue to listen to Nannagaru’s speeches. Had limited access to his cassettes because at that time there was not that much financial independence to buy them and also availability was also not that much. But, I used to repeatedly hear the ones where Nannagaru explained about the mother thought – I.

One thing that was always mysterious was that whenever I travelled to and from Vizag for holidays I would magically wake up as the train entered Vijayawada station (this station arrived in the middle of the night). I have always been a heavy sleeper. Once I fall asleep, I wouldn’t wake up till the next morning no matter what. The girls in my hostel would wait until I went to bed to gather around me and draw on my face and talk to me and I would tell them all kinds of things but not remember a single thing when I woke up in the morning. But somehow used to wake up at this station, I would look out for the book store, count the poles that passed so I could quickly run back to the book store and buy Bhagavan’s books. Every time I was woken up like this I would find one of Bhagavan’s books in English at the bookstore. Like this, a few books were collected.

One other interesting thing that happened during my stay in Tirupati that I can remember, was that someone posted a flyer about Bhagavan Satsang in our hostel common area. I was very happy to see that and wanted to go and attend Satsang. But the problem was that hostel gates close by 6 and no one is allowed to go out or come in after that without permission. After a little effort, I was able to get permission to go. This place was in a remote ashram at the foot of Tirumala. There were very few people who visited the Satsang. Once done everyone left. I had to walk through some woods and come on to the main road and catch two buses to go to the hostel. Three-fourths of the way to the bus stop was very deserted. By the time my bus came, it was very dark, and I was the only one on the bus and felt a little scared. Out of nowhere a person came and sat in the seat behind me and started talking to me. He was probably in his late 40’s. He said he was a devotee of Bhagavan and that he also attended the Satsang ( and I didn’t notice him, they were very few people who attended the Satsang and there was no one who walked back to the bus stop in the woods with me) he gave me a wallet size picture of Bhagavan in his teens, this was the first time I saw that picture of Bhagavan at that age. I was thrilled. He said that he owned a cheap liquor store behind the bus stand. He waited until my next bus came made sure I boarded safely and left. 35 years later I still have this picture of Bhagavan in my wallet.

During my MBA and after (1997) I had only a few opportunities to see Nannagaru. He never spoke to me. If I was in town and happened to know he arrived, I would visit him. Do my namaskarams from far and leave. Another swami who helped me tremendously in my spiritual practice was Swami Yogananda in Bheemili. He used to teach Advaita philosophy and answer a lot of my questions. I used to visit him as and when I could.

In 1999 I came to the US. There were no Satsangs, no one to talk to about Bhagavan and it was expensive to call India. Right around this time, Bhagavan ashram website opened and in that, they had few free books and also a list of places where Satsangs were happening. I was very happy when I saw a place about 2 hours away from me. It was called the SAT. I used to go visit them on the weekends but was not satisfied with the Satsangs as I got used to Nannagaru’s teachings but still would go to visit them as there was a very high desire to be in Satsang with Bhagavan's devotees. Later a Satsang was started closer to (40 mins away) to where I lived and I stopped going to SAT.

I got married in 2002. Few days before the wedding, I was made the bride. At that time Nannagaru was in Vizag. I visited him in the afternoon, took his blessings and we left for Hyderabad for my wedding. I didn’t have any strong desire that Nannagaru should visit my wedding or anything like that - maybe because Nannagaru didn’t speak to me that much at that time. I was happy to get his blessings that day. Few hours before the wedding when the Gauri pooja started, I went into a trance-like state. I could see everything, I was talking with everyone but there was quietness, peacefulness inside. Everything was happening in the foreground and was being witnessed but there was a lot of silence. I came out of it after I went to my in-law's house. I was so much in this trance state that I didn’t notice that no one from my side of the family came with me to my in-laws. I was just sent all by myself to this new house.

2006 my first son was born. When he was 9 months old, we went to the temple to feed him his first solid food (annaprasana). Just as we were about to start, Ramana ashram President Sundaram Garu, his sons Ravi Garu and Anand Garu (the present president of Ramana Ashram) visited the temple along with their families. They were the first ones who fed him his first solid food.

2008 my second son was born. Few months after that we personally went through a lot of hardship financially, health-wise and also issues with very very close family members. Almost at the same time. My older son had to go through a lot of mysterious health problems. Few months he would be ok and all of a sudden he would be in the ICU( By Guru’s grace all these issues were resolved and he didn’t have any health problems since). I had a few health problems. We had to keep moving houses and on top of all this had to stop talking with a few of my near and dear family.

During this phase, I didn’t have any strength to listen to Nannagarus talks. As I was not listening to him, I didn’t have any strength to overcome these challenges, I was deeply getting pulled into worldly matters, the more I got pulled, the more away I was going from my sadhana. It kind of became a vicious cycle, I didn’t have any strength to listen to Nannagarus talks as I was not listening to him I was getting pulled into worldly matters as I was getting pulled towards this world, I was not getting the strength to do any sadhana.

My only desire at this time, which was very very strong was that I should somehow take my body and mind and make it stand before Nannagaru. Inside I had this strong belief that only when I am in his physical presence will I be able to get control of my mind and with his strength I will be able to do my sadhana and will be able to stop myself from getting pulled and mixing up with these worldly issues. Not that I didn’t accept the fact that he was all-pervading. It was just that I didn’t have any strength or maturity to receive this all-pervading energy. No matter how much I tried I couldn’t go to India for three and a half years.

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