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Swami, by now, was totally perplexed

Swami, by now, was totally perplexed, and could not make any sense of these strange happenings of the night. He returned to his car, and was aghast to find that he was not able to open his fist, his fingers clutching tight at a fistful of temple mud. Somehow, shaking all this off, he drove with his left hand to Madurai nearby, directly to the famous Meenakshi Amman temple. He headed straight for the Sundareshwar sannadhi. Right next to the sanctum was a Kali idol. Swami, now overcome with fear, started praying. Suddenly he heard the same divine voice that had spoken to him in the form of the lady at the footsteps of the temple. The voice ordered him to go fetch a likeliness of Meenakshi Amman. Swami promptly headed outside and purchased a picture of the goddess from a small stall. He handed the stall owner money for the purchase with his left hand. The stall owner was displeased by this show of disrespect to the goddess and asked Swami to hand him the money with his right hand. Swami tried hard to explain the fact that he was, for some strange reason, unable to open his right fist just then, miraculously, Swami's right fist opened on its own, revealing a splendid, impeccably featured figurine of Devi's face, made up of pure sandalwood. The idol was fragrant beyond description.

Both Swami and the stall owner were wonderstruck. The stall owner immediately placed the five rupees as an offering to the Devi, and paid his obeisance. Swami, keeping the idol carefully with him, then headed back to Mayavaram.

Back home, Swami's worried parents were relieved to see their son back. Swami narrated all the adventures and incidents of the previous night but nobody believed a word of it. On the contrary, they felt that Swami was concocting a far from believable story in a feeble attempt to explain away his prolonged absence from home. Swami's condition became pathetic since he could not get anyone to understand the trauma he was going through. None cared to pacify or console him.

Overtime, Swami started behaving in a peculiar manner. Every Thursday and Friday, some mystic power would force him to wake up at night at around 2 am. After taking a bath, he would light a lamp and sit in front of it till day break. This activity was almost sub-conscious, not something that even Swami was aware he was doing at the time. Swami's mother was starting to get very concerned over her son's sudden strange behavior. She tried all she could to disrupt his nocturnal activity. She stopped filling the vessels with water, to prevent him from taking bath. This was hardly a deterrent for Swami since he would walk over to the village pond to take his morning bath.

Swami's parents were getting increasingly worried over his strange behavior. In fact, Swami himself could not understand what was happening to him and why. People suspected that some evil ghost had cast a spell on him, and that he was possessed. Swami endured a period of torture as his parents took him to all self-proclaimed exorcists in the neighboring countryside. When this was not successful, he was examined by various psychiatrists and given shock treatment to get rid of his strange behavior. All this while, Swami patiently endured the torture.

Finally, he was introduced to yet another doctor, Dr. Balan who was noted for his kind-heartedness and broad-mindedness. He was very sympathetic and understanding in his treatment approach. After listening carefully to all that Swami had to say, he gave Swami valuable and excellent advice. He asked Swami to ask Devi herself the reason for his strange behavior, the whereabouts of Devi and the particular reason for Devi speaking to him on Thursdays and Fridays. Swami realized that this was his only recourse.

Finally the day arrived. It was the year 1970. Devi appeared before Swami and said "I have already spoken to you at the footsteps of the Chothannikkara temple. I have merged in you as per your grandmother's wish. Do not be afraid. Light a lamp and sit in front of it, meditating on me. Have absolute faith in me and I will protect you from all the difficulties. I will take care of you and your activities". Saying this, Devi disappeared.

Swami was now filled with renewed confidence. He quickly learned all the manthrams, sasthras and tanthras from Devi. He was aiso taught religious rites, spiritual doctrines and prathistha dharmas. As and when called for, he would receive salient spiritual instructions from Devi. He was thus ordained by Devi to prepare for the service and welfare of all humanity. This divine process of indoctrination continued for almost 4 years and prepared Swami to sacrifice his life for the peace and happiness of the human race.

We ail know the importance of a teacher as a guru. It has been said, the word guru means the one who leads to light and awareness, away from darkness. If we are headed to a destination, we take the help of a signboard or maps and follow directions. Similarly, in our spiritual lives, the guru plays a very significant role. Without his blessings and grace, it is impossible for an ordinary mortal to attain divine grace. It is for this reason that since ancient times, the gurukulam has been given paramount importance.

Guru Brahma, Guru Vishnu,
Guru Devo Maheshwara
Guru Sakshat Parambrahma
Tasmai Shri Guruve Namaha

This divine sloka (axiom) explains the essence of Guru mahima, i.e., the grace of the guru.

One who dispels the darkness surrounding the activity of creation, one who dispels the darkness surrounding the activity of maintenance, one who dispels the darkness surrounding the activity of distruction is the one who is The All Supreme In­dweller, the Spectator. May he be worshipped.

With these stepping stones, we ascend ever so slowly up the ladder that takes us to life's ultimate goal Self Realization, to enjoy eternal bliss.

When we enter into this world as a child, our mother becomes our first teacher. As an infant, mother is everything for us, and her instruction is gospel. With absolute faith in her, we are introduced to the father and slowly start learning and obeying him. Thus, parents become the first real teachers for us in our childhood. We are then exposed to the outside world. We go to school to learn more about this great, big world created by the Almighty. The teacher in the school starts guiding us and imparts worldly knowledge. The so-called modern schools of learning, however, do not really help us uplift our ethics and morals and in shaping our character.

As we grow up to be an adult, we begin to feel that we are in the midst of an ocean of misery. We encounter enormous problems that at times seem hopelessly insurmountable. Very few of us that are fortunate find ways to tackle day-to-day problems of life successfully. Academic degrees and bookish knowledge are of little use to us when faced with life crises. At such times, we feel the need for a guru, someone who can show us the way to mental peace. We then search for a guru who is attuned to our line of thinking, our wavelength. In course of time, we obey the guru, follow his instructions and eventually become his disciple. We are thus enriched spiritually while leading a life of self-discipline, concentration and meditation inter-twined with our daily activities.

Many holy saints and sages like Ramakrishna Paramahansa, Ramana Maharshi, Shirdi Sai Baba, Swami Vivekananda, Sathya Sai Baba, and Matha Amrithanandamayi among others have come to this world as Gurus to lead humankind to everlasting peace and happiness.

Thus, absolute faith (what I mean is hundred percent faith, not even a fraction less) and devotion to one's guru will certainly lead you to achieve the desirable results at any time. But one should exercise caution and judgment in choosing the right guru who can lead us to the ultimate, constantly checking on our progress down the road of self enquiry, and hopefully to finally understand the divinity within us.

At this point, I would like to point out the subtle difference between guru and Sadguru. Guru is one who is still on the way to self realization, practicing strict penance and self discipline. In this endeavour, he takes his disciples along with him. On the other hand, Sadguru is the enlightened one, one who has already merged himself with the supreme. He is God incarnate. Sadgurus are true sanyasis who adhere to the strict penance of Brahmacharya and renunciation. They are in eternal union with God, and attain samadhi after their last mortal breath.

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