Shivi Verma endeavours to shed light on the process of enlightenment by examining her own spiritual journey
A journey is always towards a destination.
And the spiritual journey is the most mysterious, yet the most exciting one of all journeys. Rather, all the journeys of life are contained within this mega-journey of a soul on Planet Earth. Once this flame within a sincere seeker of truth is ignited, there is no looking back until they reach the destination.
But what is this destination?
Most of us have no clear idea about what we want or where we want to reach when we embark upon this journey. We are just consumed by a yearning, a deep longing, to find completion, and we are led instinctively and intuitively on the path.
Mostly, a seeker begins with getting a glimpse of the magnificent world of spirit. The experiences may differ from one another, but the feelings are the same. A sense of deep bliss, peace, contentedness, introversion, languor, intoxication, freshness, and boundless love cascade upon on you, and you begin to feel that there is so much more to this mundane world.
The onset of the journey
I still remember being steeped in a sweet sense of discovery when I had first experienced the joys of meditation at the age of 19 (although I entered the path full tilt at the age of 24, giving up the practice several times in between).
A neighbour of mine, who was of my father’s age, had sketched the method of doing meditation on a piece of paper and given it to me. Excited about the prospects described by him (he had said that I could get anything I wanted through meditation), I had instantly sat down to follow his instructions.
And a little miracle began to unfold as I began to connect with the silent voice within me. It said the sweetest possible things to me. That I was very special since I belonged to Him; that I was extremely dear to Him since I was his creation; that He loved me like nobody else in this world. I melted into tears of bliss as I heard the words that came from deep within but seemed like an outside source. I forgot all about what I wanted from this entity.
I was enjoying my communion with Him and wanted to continue this magical association. As my interactions with the Divine grew, my thirst to experience Him more closely began to increase. There seemed to be a destination, a place where I had to go, to finally be one with Him.
If He had a face, I wanted to see it; if He had a body, I wanted to touch it; if He had a voice, I wanted to hear it; if there was a place where I could be in His languorous presence, I wanted to be there. I was obsessed with His thought and ached to be with Him at all costs. The world with all its tantalising and psychedelic experiences had lost its charms for me. For there seemed to be an alluring mystical world beyond what was visible, and you could access it only if He opened its portals for you. There was a door, but I did not know where. There was a path, but I did not know what or where it was. There was a ‘way-shower,’ but I did not know who?
Those were the days of indescribable happiness yet immense pain. For the beloved was near you, around you all the time, whispering sweet nothings in your ears, but you did not how to come face-to-face with Him. I wanted a guide who could lead me to my beloved, but I could not find anyone for the longest time. I used to look hopefully at any ochre-robed man crossing my path, wondering if he was the one sent by God to lead me to Him.
Often, I felt a huge impulse to renounce everything and go on an unknown journey, not resting until I had found what I was so desperately looking for. I used to get stopped only by the thought of my grieving parents, who would suffer for no fault of theirs if I took such a step.
How I often wanted to leave this mortal body to enter the magical, mystical world of spirit where I could be free to taste the higher joys of life!
Spiritual books became my manna during those times. I devoured them one after another. They were my biggest ally as they shed light on the lives of seekers of truth, their learning, experience, challenges and finally, their homecoming.
Mirabai was the quintessential lover, forever in search of her Divine lover, who seemed near but was never within her grasp. She pined for Krishna, sang songs, left home, became a wanderer, yet one does not know if she ever got to see her Lord.
Ramakrishna Paramahansa deeply loved Kali, the mother Goddess, and gambled everything, even his sanity, to get Her vision. I used to get goosebumps on reading Romain Rolland’s biography of Ramakrishna Paramahansa, which describes how—when Ramakrishna stood before the idol of the mother Goddess, threatening to cut his head if she didn’t appear before him—the benevolent mother burst forth from the idol to fulfil his wishes. Ramakrishna fell on the ground on seeing Her in live form.
Then there was Kabir who was all about deep mysticism and esotericism.
I could not understand what he meant when he said:
Jaat humaara brahma hai,
Maata pita hai Ram,
Girah humara Shunya main
Anhad mein bisraam
Prem gali ati saankari,
Ja mein do na samaya
Jab main tha tab hari nahi,
ab hari hai main nahi
He spoke of a certain transcendental reality that was way beyond what was comprehensible to the human mind.
As I tried to understand him, I felt a little disappointed. Kabir spoke of a state of supreme merger where one became indistinguishably one with the Divine. The lover and the beloved could not exist as separate entities when they came close to each other.
Did I want that state?
I wanted a little separation. I wanted the Divine to have a separate identity from me so that I could enjoy our interactions. There were so many ways of associating with Him. I could become His child, His friend, His servant, His lover, His disciple or even His mother, and every relation was beautiful and perfect in itself.
But this did not mean that I was content with worshipping a man-made idol of the Divine. Many followers of this philosophy advocated pouring your heart out to an idol to express your love for God. But I could never do it. If I was a part of God, then He had to be more alive than me. I wanted my deities sitting in the altar to talk to me, walk with me, joke and play with me. Although I did not get a visitation from any of the gods, I do remember Lord Shiva, Devi Parvati, and Sri Krishna coming in my dreams. When I woke up, the feeling of being visited by divine energies was so strong that I sat the whole day in a state of trance not knowing what had hit me. I was drunk on God.
But still, the destination seemed far away. I wanted a sort of completion, a fulfilment, but I didn’t know how to get it or rather, what its contours looked like.
Then I happened to read Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramhansa Yogananda. I was blown away by the exciting, metaphysical experiences described in it by Yogananda. But the one that took the cake was when Yogananda describes the experience of merging with the Divine after his guru Sri Yukteswargiri fulfilled his long-held desire. Mukunda (Paramhansa Yogananda’s name before being accepted in the monk order) was trying to meditate in his guru’s room after returning from a failed journey to the Himalayas to become God-realised. Sri Yukteswargiri understood the predicament of his young disciple and summoned him.
Below is an excerpt from the chapter that vividly describes the moment of Mukunda’s Self-realisation. (Chapter 14, page number 140)
“Poor boy, mountains could not give you what you want.”
Master spoke caressingly, comfortingly. His calm gaze was unfathomable. “Your heart’s desire shall be fulfilled.”
Sri Yukteswar seldom indulged in riddles; I was bewildered. He struck gently on my chest above the heart.
My body became immovably rooted; breath was drawn out of my lungs as if by some huge magnet. Soul and mind instantly lost their physical bondage and streamed out like a fluid piercing light from my every pore. . . . My sense of identity was no longer narrowly confined to a body but embraced the circumambient atoms. . . .
All objects within my panoramic gaze trembled and vibrated like quick motion pictures. My body, Master’s, the pillared courtyard, the furniture and floor, the trees and sunshine, occasionally became violently agitated, until all melted into a luminescent sea; even as sugar crystals thrown into a glass of water, dissolve after being shaken. The unifying light alternated with materialisations of form, the metamorphoses revealing the law of cause and effect in creation.
An oceanic joy broke upon calm endless shores of my soul. The Spirit of God, I realised, is exhaustless Bliss; His body is countless tissues of light.
I cognized the centre of the empyrean as a point of intuitive perception in my heart. Irradiating splendour issued from my nucleus to every part of the universal structure. Blissful amrita, nectar of immortality, pulsated through me with a quicksilverlike fluidity. The creative voice of God I heard resounding as Aum, the vibration of the Cosmic Motor.
I found this revelation both exciting as well as frightening. The description of one’s consciousness leaving the confines of one’s mortal frame and merging with the infinite seemed daunting. I was rattled to the core on reading this particular piece. If this constituted merging with the Divine, then it was highly scintillating. There was no loss of love to be suffered in the Divine union since you become one with the energy of love. You become love itself.
As this realisation dawned upon me, my fascination for form dropped away. I was no longer fixated on getting the darshan of Lord Krishna, who I considered to be God.
Gradually, as time passed and my efforts intensified, I began to realise that the ever-present God was in the here and now, and the more I focused on being in the now, the closer I was to the Divine.
After a long search, I met my guru, who blessed me with the vision of Lord Krishna in 2013. I was deeply fulfilled but no longer clinging to this experience; wanting its repetition for the present moment was all that mattered. The experience of supreme merger as described by Yogananda may still be some way off, but I do not hanker after it.
It will happen when it has to happen. Yet it cannot be denied that these experiences do fuel in a seeker, and even a layperson, the desire for higher pursuits in life. Some get Self-realised without ever experiencing this state. Some get glimpses of this state at the beginning of their journey, after which maya draws its curtains again, compelling the seeker to go on a relentless journey to find the truth. For others, it happens as a fruit of all their labour and effort to find liberation from duality.
A word of caution
And there are as many experiences as there have been seekers and Self-realised people on this earth. Each one happens when the mind, for a certain reason, has fallen away and the effulgent light of the Divine, lying obscured within the mesh of dualistic thoughts, bursts upon the consciousness of the seeker.
Life is never the same afterwards.
In this issue, we have featured the oneness experiences of 12 masters for you to enjoy and mull over. Each is a testimony to our transcendental reality, our divine origin, and our final destination. I am sure, reading them will fill you with a renewed desire to bring more consistency in your spiritual efforts if they have slackened for some reason.
Yet, no matter how beautiful, desirable, and mesmerising these experiences may be, being obsessed about having them is another trap of maya. Our purpose in this world is to perform our duties with diligence, alacrity, and awareness and serve others as much as possible.
“Hands that serve are better than hands that pray,” it is said.
It is totally upon the Divine to grant us this elusive experience according to His wish. Not only that; having undergone this invaluable experience is by no means a guarantee that you have become Self-realised, hence perfect, and can never go wrong in life. Many a guru has fallen from grace after such having such experiences, simply because they stopped keeping a vigil on their inner world and got deluded about their own infallibility.
Swami Vivekananda often recalled an incident from his monastic life while talking to his students:
As a disciple of Ramakrishna Paramahansa, when Vivekananda approached him to ask for the experience of Nirvikalpa Samadhi (a state of total dissolution in the Divine), Ramkrishna remonstrated him saying, “You are looking for your own salvation! Shame on you! I thought you will be like a huge banyan tree and give shelter to many a lost soul, but you have disappointed me. There is something much higher than samadhi . . . which is serving mankind as the purest manifestation of the Divine.”
Although Swami Vivekananda achieved Nirvikalpa Samadhi a few days later, Ramakrishna told him that he will not get it again until his mission on earth is complete.
Swami Vivekananda took his guru’s words very seriously and often warned his students about the perils of seeking personal salvation alone, which, according to him, was a sin. “Worship the Divine in human form, for that is the highest worship and service to God,” he said.
Perhaps this is the reason why many masters refused our request to share their experiences with Life Positive. An issue that I felt would be quite easy to put together became a cause for concern as the days went by. Therefore, I thank all the masters featured in the magazine from the bottom of my heart for agreeing to share this very personal experience with the world.
These experiences only serve to reinstate the fact that the ultimate destiny of all of the human race is divine and incredibly beautiful. All of us are going home one day.
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