Sunday, November 15, 2020

"Guru's grace alone exists" - (By Venamma Garu)

I was born in Jinnuru. I used to study in the school near his house. I would go every day, in the intermission, to their house to drink water from the pot that they had kept in the verandah. I had no idea then that this very house would become my sacred pilgrimage in the years to come. I have no memories of seeing him around the house then. When my paternal aunt told me about Nannagaru, I asked, “Who is it? Is it Rajayamma’s son?” Little did I know that he would be the charioteer of my life!

My sister-in-law took me to Savitri mammagaru’s house. That is where I had the good fortune of meeting Nannagaru for the first time. While I was still at the threshold of the house, Nannagaru said, “Come Venamma!” That day I did not find it special. But now, 30 years later, my heart swells in happiness that God himself called my name. For a few days after that, I used to have a strong urge to have his darshan daily. Unable to bear the parting, I asked Nannagaru if I could stay in Jinnuru, my home town. But Nannagaru said no and that he would be coming to Hyderabad regularly. That year he came to Hyderabad 4 to 5 times. I enjoyed his holy company so much that when I walked by the water tank near his house, I would speak out with great jealousy, “oh! Water tank! How lucky you are. He walks by your side every day and sees you every day!” In those days, we stayed in Karnataka. I used to attend Satsang there. I used to point to the clouds there and tell everybody, “Look at these clouds. If there is something anyone wants to convey to Nannagaru, you can tell them. They are going that way!”This is not imagination or flowery words. I really felt so. To this day, I have no idea why I have so much love for him. He alone should know.

In Karnataka, a very famous Swamiji used to come to our house. He said he would teach us meditation. He taught us for 45 minutes. He played the flute as long as we meditated. He played really well. He asked later, what I felt during the meditation time. I said, I like Bhagavan, and so my mind was full of thoughts related to him. He said meditation was the only means for jnana. He also said that Buddha attained liberation through dhyana alone. “How is that Swamiji? If the jiva who is supposed to travel through births or attain liberation is put under watch, it will be obvious in this very second that he does not exist! Buddha gave scope to watch also!” I said. He did not like what I said. He said that Bhagavan is ‘Not at all a Maharshi’. I felt no reaction to his statement. I narrated all this to Lakshmi. Lakshmi told about this incident to Nannagaru. Nannagaru scolded me and said that it was unnecessary for me to debate with them. Later, when I went to Jinnuru, Nannagaru asked me how I felt when the Swamiji said ‘Not at all a Maharshi’. I said that I felt nothing. Elaborating further I said, “What will he gain if somebody says something good about him and what will he lose if somebody said he was not a Maharshi.” I am narrating this to highlight how Nannagaru teaches us. Nannagaru said to me, “You think of Bhagavan as God. Hence it seems natural for you to say that he neither gets nor loses anything when somebody says he is not a Maharshi. Now I ask you, what is it that you gain or lose when somebody says something like that to you?” I answered that I lose nothing. “If you can stay like that, no sorrow will touch you even if the whole creation were against you!” he said. Is it possible to forget these words even in births to come? If he said something with personal reference, it just has to get rooted firmly! For all thousands of his devotees, each one feels Nannagaru is his nearest and dearest. It is like that! That’s all there is to say!

I used to go to Ramakrishna math regularly. But after meeting Nannagaru, for almost a year, I could not go because of one or another reason. After a long time, I got to know that math Swamiji was unwell and was hospitalized. He used to care for me. So, I went to visit him at the hospital. He said that I had left Thakur. I did not agree. I told him that I liked Bhagavan’s subject and that I was going to Nannagaru’s discourses. He said that it was ok. He was worried that I had left the path of God totally. He added, “They say that ego, world and God are illusions. Don’t you find that difficult?” “Not at all! In fact, it was these very words that attracted me.” I said. He was very happy. Lakshmi narrated all this to Nannagaru. Nannagaru used to encourage us by saying, “You spoke well. Even the Swamiji would not have understood that!” Not that the Swamiji did not know. It was a way of encouraging us. Nannagaru is slowly pulling all of us towards the ocean of peace and bliss like a calf is drawn along the way by showing it bundled green grass fodder.

In Karnataka, there used to be a very rich MP(Member of the Parliament). He was a great devotee of Lord Shiva. He used to spend crores of rupees on yajnas. He was my brother’s friend. Once, he performed a yajna which was not attempted by anyone in recent times. It is said that the last mention was that of the king Bhoja Raja. He mentioned this and said that only he had performed such a yajna after Bhoja raja. I said, “What is great about it? Lord Shiva himself gave you the devotion, the money and the desire to perform this yajna and got it done by you. That’s all.” He was surprised and asked me who my Guru was. In those days I would go on and on if the name Nannagaru was mentioned, like a possessed person. So, I told him about Nannagaru and Bhagavan’s subject and how he was trying to take us to the sorrowless state for 15 minutes. He said that he was interested in visiting such a Guru. He continued, “You are saying that the Lord himself has done everything! Is there nothing that I have done then?” I answered him that the fruit of all these yajnas is the darshan of my Guru and that because he had performed all these pious deeds, that he had the chance of my Guru’s darshan. Everyone, there was stunned by my words. He then said to me, “All right! Then what is it that you have done to get that good fortune of his darshan?” “I have not done anything in this birth. It is only due to the good deeds that I must have done over many previous births.” I answered. How much ever I look for one, I am not able to pinpoint any reason for this love I have for Nannagaru. What have I done for him? I keep thinking. There is nothing I have done. He has not looked for any return from any of us to shower his grace. Nannagaru has taught this subject to all of us till it is well digested and has become our very blood. I cannot write in words if I have to tell my relation with him. Even if I were to attempt to write, it would be like a drop in an ocean.

For a period of time, I felt very sad that I am unable to make any effort to become intimate to God. But I used to love the preachings of Sri Nannagaru. Whenever I heard such preachings( that touched my Heart) I used to experience boundless happiness. Once in one of the speeches, Sri Nannagaru said: "If I do not think of you, you cannot even think of me." During that period of time, I thought of Sri Nannagaru almost throughout the day. I then felt: " What else do I require if Nannagaru is thinking of me for so many times?" Why should I feel sad that I am unable to make any effort to attain GOD? Isn't it he, who does everything? Is there anything which I can do on my own? " On thinking thus, I lost my inferiority complex (of unable to make any spiritual effort). I always felt that all my flaws will be washed away in His flood of Grace.

Even now, I do not have any desire for liberation. Once I asked Nannagaru, “Not once did I get a thought that I should attain liberation, Nannagaru!” He said, “You need not desire. You just have to deserve it!” So, I always feel that his words and his smile are enough for me. We can feel contentment and closeness just by looking at that smile.

Once, after attending a discourse at Chinchinada, I was returning by walk. Nannagaru’s car stopped by and I got in. He asked me what I liked most about the speech. I answered, “If you can keep your focus on that which exists, then you need not do sadhana (spiritual practice) to get rid of that which doesn’t exist. It will disappear by itself. I liked this point.” Nannagaru was seated in the front seat. He turned all the way to face me sitting in the back seat and said, “You liked that! If one gets used to it, it is a very easy method. You can call it Sukha Margam (the easy path) if wish to.” Whenever I hear or think about anything pertaining to the Self, I remember this term easy path.

Once, in Arunachalam, we were all seated on the terrace around Nannagaru. I was supposed to leave for Hyderabad the next day on an important job. I was saddened and had tears in my eyes. I was sitting behind Nannagaru’s chair and sobbing quietly. Suddenly Nannagaru said, “Venamma! This hill looks like a pile of rocks. But my Guru likes it. So, I am learning to like it too. ”To teach that to make his wish as my wish, he has to come down so much, I thought? (Nannagaru just to solace Venamma Garu had said this, he very well knows Arunachala is embodiment of Grace). Every time I remember this anecdote, I get a touch of grace from the heart within, even now.

During the times of enjoying the bliss of his holy company, I used to narrate to Lakshmi how much I like to be in Nannagaru’s presence. Lakshmi said, “Like the presence of the Nannagaru in the thoughtless state of your heart and then tell me that you like to be his presence! The like that you are talking about now, is not real!” I was shocked. There was a huge struggle within for 15 days. Then I understood. Whatever we do use the mind is not the ultimate state. From then on I used just watch my mind. I enjoyed watching the mind for a long time. I realized that my mind was full of thoughts related to doubt. Unable to bear this, I wrote this on a piece of paper and handed it over to Nannagaru. “I seem to like the path of surrender. But if there are strong and repetitive thoughts of the same kind, then it means there is no surrender. My mind is eating me up. You alone have to show me a way out of this!” I wrote. His answer was another turning point in my life. He said, “If your thoughts (prarabdha) are like a tornado, then the Guru does what Eeswara(God) cannot do. They are coming because, He brings them up, shows them and removes them. Shows and removes… shows and removes. If in your destiny you have to lose your head, he will see to it that only the turban is lost. Your debt is being cleared by the Guru. This is grace. If you identify his grace, you will experience grace instead of your prarabdha (destiny). You must not leave the path of surrender. All you need to do is to identify the guru’s grace.” After that day, I felt that a clear cut direction for leading the rest of my life had been laid down.

Once, I went with Nannagaru to Vizag for some function. As there was a lot of time for it to start, Nannagaru was asked to take rest in a devotee’s house nearby. There he said, “You people say that the Guru loves the devotees. In truth, he loves because he cannot stay without loving”. After this, we attended another function in some other devotee’s house. I was sitting away from him. The devotees there served paakam gaarelu (doughnut-like snack dipped in sugar syrup). Nannagaru called me and asked me, with a beautiful smile on his face, “Venamma! What is this?” In an earlier speech, Nannagaru had said that the Bhagavadgita is like a plain gaare (doughnut) and the Bhagavatam was like paakam gaare (doughnut dipped in sugar syrup). So, I replied that it was Bhagavatam.

Whenever I remember his gaze, I feel like he is exerting force on my mind and is pushing it towards the heart. We worship Rama and Krishna as Gods believing what somebody has written years ago. We ask them to fulfil our desires. But Nannagaru is taking us to a desireless state. He filled the mind that was full of desires with his presence and totally erased the very desire to desire something. I sometimes wonder…. Have I really seen Nannagaru? Did he really call me Venamma? I get such thoughts often in fact. I guess he wants to prove all this is indeed real. Thoughts and memories related to him bring so much bliss and thrill, as though telling me, “Look! All this is real!” Sometimes, when I wish to offer my gratitude to him, I wonder to what all and how many incidents it is that I can thank him?

Nannagaru’s words- “I like all of you. Because it is I alone who is in all of you.”

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