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Swami explained the difference between pada pooja and paduka pooja

   In the Hindu religion, the vaishnavites always believe that surrendering oneself at the lotus feet of God and to the Guru is the greatest offering to the Lord. They are of the opinion that the lotus feet are of greater importance than the Lord Himself since it is the lotus feet which support the God. Pada pooja is hence considered the supreme offering. Swami once explained the difference between pada pooja and paduka pooja. Pada pooja is done directly to Swami and it should be done with the feeling that Sadguru Gnananandar and Devi are within Swami. In such a pooja, he immediately gives the phalan (fruit of the offering). In paduka pooja, the pooja is done to an object, the padukas (sacred sandals) used by the Guru and the phalan is kept in reserve for use at a later occasion. This is similar to the fixed deposit in the bank, which one gets back with added value, but after a delayed period.

   It was the month of March 1992. Swami had come down to Bombay wearing a red dress which he normally wears only on Thursdays and Fridays when Devi is completely manifested in him. When we asked him the reason, he uttered that Devi was going to be with him for all the forty days of his stay in Bombay. Four days later, March 26th happened to be my sister's silver jubilee wedding anniversary and she wanted to celebrate by organizing a party for close friends and relatives. She requested Swami to attend and bless them. A decision was made to go to Navarathna hotel at Vashi. Just before leaving, Swami asked me to keep a parcel in his car. I just happened to note the writings on the top of the packet. It was written in Tamil and it read — "man can realize God but what happens when God realizes the man and merges Himself with him!?" — immediately it struck me that the note signifies Swami only. Keeping my thoughts to myself, I went inside. Swami said that on our way, we would be going to a Siva temple near the BARC colony. He always used to make puns with words. When we reverse Vashi in Tamil, it is Shi-va and so the visit to the Siva temple. Though we had lived in Bombay for three decades, we had never known about this temple. We all entered and Swami was standing behind us, all facing the temple sanctum. The Maharashtrian priest of the temple showed karpoora aarathi to Siva and turned back and showed that to Swami. After worshipping, we received the prasadam and few of us went to Swami and gave him the prasadam. From there we straight went to the restaurant, where the tables were kept reserved at the first floor for us. After dinner, Swami took out the packet and asked all of us to guess what was inside that. There were a variety of replies, most saying that it contained the photo of one God or another. I felt that it was Swami's photo since the writing represents none other than him. But I kept this thought to myself and remained silent. When it was opened, to the surprise of all, it was Swami's photo with one hand on his chest and a trishul near him, stating — why fear when I am here! Cast all the burdens on me — I'll take care of you. It was presented to my sister. After returning to my sister's home, Swami asked all of us to assemble before him. He said that he was very upset and disappointed that none of us are upto his expectations and mocked all of us giving prasadam to him. He said not a single one had understood him. In fact, he said, the priest in the temple had realized the true divinity in him by showing the aarathi to him. Though many of us address him as Ambal or consider him as their Guru, none had really realized the divinity in him and we only treat him as a superior human being. He posed all these questions to us for which we had no answers and all of us felt ashamed and very bad. I humbly told him that although I had not replied in public, I had interpreted the photo correctly in my heart and asked his pardon for our foolishness. A couple of devotees made some comments and poked fun at some aspect of my conversation with Swami. Meanwhile, it was very late and Swami ordered all of us to leave for home.

   At home I narrated all the events to my husband and sister-in-law. I went to sleep with a heavy heart, all the while thinking how to correct myself as per Swami's expectations and receive Devi's blessings. Soon, I fell sleep. I had a peculiar dream. Chothanikkara Devi appeared in front of me. She said that she has come down to Bombay for forty days and she asked me why not I do pada pooja to Her. With fear and respect, I humbly asked Her with what I should do the pooja to Her. She replied saying — am I not aware of all the flowers, leaves, kumkum, haldi and other items that She has created. I humbly submitted that I am neither fluent nor pious enough to know the full extent of divine recitals of Devi. She replied saying that She has many manifestations and that I can do pada pooja reciting the divine verses of that any deity every day. I cried to her saying that I am a working woman and also have to take care of the household work and the children's needs. Under such circumstances, how could She expect me to do the pooja at a specified time daily? Devi haughtily asked me whether there was any fixed time for worshipping God. I felt very ashamed and asked Her pardon and said that with Her blessings I would definitely do the pada pooja to her daily. With tears welling up in my eyes, I subconsciously started beating my sister-in-law's back, saying that I would definitely do it. She woke up startled and asked me what happened. I immediately realized that the whole episode was a dream and narrated the dream to her and my husband. I could not sleep after that. I was anxiously waiting for day break. Early morning at five, I called one of Swami's close devotees Mr. Kannan on whom I have a lot of confidence and told him about the dream. He advised me to speak to Swami and seek his blessings. Initially I felt a little nervous but after lighting the lamp in my prayer room and praying to Chothanikkara Devi I summoned the courage to call Swami and narrated the entire dream to him. I requested him to bless me to do pada pooja daily to him as and when I was free from college work and also of course as per Swami's convenience.

   Every day, I would take all the items needed for the pooja and a cup of milk, milk pudding or some sweet dish as neivedyam to Devi and do the pada pooja directly to Swami's divine lotus feet, while chanting the Devi astothrams (108 divine holy names depicting the glory of the manifestations of Devi). On the very first day, while performing the pooja, I felt the presence of Chothanikkara Devi and became highly emotional. From then on, at the end of every pada pooja, I had a new unique experience, almost like some indescribable force charging me, renewing me.

   The happiness I felt is beyond description. I used to go to different houses, sometimes in the early morning and sometimes at night as per Swami's convenience. Without any hindrance, I could maintain the daily routine for about twenty days.

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