Sunday, February 24, 2013

Encounters with A Mystic

It was in the September of 1988 that I met a most unusual being.

I had just finished my four year Engineering course and was in a shambles. I left the course with a lot of back papers. 

Dejected and defeated, I hoped to find some support from my home. At home there were my parents and my grandmother. 

I couldn't be more mistaken. Because her son had been a topper in all classes till then, my mother took it as a personal affront. She was the principal in a leading teacher training institute in my home town. She just could not get it why I would choose to fail so miserably. Yes, she thought I had chosen failure. That is another story. 

But I want to tell you something that happened in that September when I met a mystic for the first time. 

It was a rainy evening. My friends-one local guy and two others from the college had hinted that they might also want to see the mystic. But the torrential rain dampened their enthusiasm. So they chose to hole up at home watching some movies.

Something impelled me to go on. 

It was not easy in those days to go places in Palakkad, because the public bus service did not reach every where. You needed a car or a bike to go to remote areas. Not having either, I took the bus to the town and from there boarded another one to take me to the venue of the program, a temple called Manappullykkavu. It is about half an hour from the town center.

After leaving the bus, there was about five minutes' walking. Soaking wet, I ran through the rain and reached the shelter of the program hall.

I was surprised to find the hall packed with people, in spite of the rain. They were all squatting on the bare floor. I found a place in the middle of the hall, by a pillar.

The program started soon after. 

The mystic was Mata Amritanandamayi. 

She sang devotional songs to the gods in the Hindu religion-Ganesha, Krishna, Devi, Siva, and others. Afterwards, one could meet her and receive a hug and a sweet. It was called darshan.

I had grown a liking for devotional songs. It let me forget my worries, for the time being. 

I enjoyed the session. Well, not for too long. It was almost two hours before it ended. I had been sitting in a cramped position, elbow to elbow with other people. Besides the dampness, the sand grains on the floor dug into my ankles, adding to the discomfort.

Then, relief! The final ceremony 

Oh, but what is this? 

Two women were worshiping the mystic with a huge fire lamp. They lit camphor on a tray and waved it before her, standing on either side, as priests do in a temple. And the mystic was sitting quietly, eyes closed, her white sari drawn over her head, covering her face. The single jewel on her nose ring shimmered in the dark.

This is too much, I thought. She is just human. Why worship a human being, like me? 

And then it happened.

As soon as this thought hit me, she lifted the sari from her face, opened her eyes, turned and looked straight into my eyes. 

I felt a jolt in my heart. Like an electric shock. 

There was no way she could have heard me thinking. It was dark inside the hall except for the lamp. I was about 70 feet from her. How could she pick me out from the crowd of hundreds. My mind was in an noncomprehending whirl.

The rest of the time, bewildered thoughts raced through me.

Some time earlier, I had read Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahamsa Yogananda. The book described many incredible, supranormal feats of Yogis. I had never dreamt that I would witness one of them. Was this one such incident? I was dazed.

The time for darshan came. People stood in two queues, men and women on either side, and went up to her one by one. Most of them were HIndus, but there were also a few Christians and Moslems, as their different style of dressing revealed.

I could not bring myself to go near her. I feared she might expose all of my thoughts.

I resolved to meet her only after changing myself, undergoing a personal transformation.

This signaled a ten year interlude in my life which exposed me to many similar experiences, teaching me that what we see and experience, is not so solid after all.

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