Inspired by a friend, one evening in Mumbai, Denish Makwana, as part of a sadhana, begs for alms in front of a temple, shirtless. At first, nothing much happens. He stands. He begs. He waits. And then what he never expects begins to happen.
“What are you on, yaar? You look so joyful and energetic these days!” I asked Jatin teasingly, but also curiously, about a year ago. This is when I first heard about Shivanga Sadhana, as Jatin shared with me his experience of collecting alms. My first reaction to his story was, “How absurd it is for a bank manager to seek alms as sadhana. Most monks even don’t do this anymore. Isn’t it undignified to beg?”
Jatin placed his hand on my shoulder gently and said, “You do the sadhana and see for yourself.” Though I just laughed at him, the way Jatin was that day touched a chord within me; I couldn’t forget those moist eyes and joyful face for a long time.
And so this year, I registered for Shivanga Sadhana, seemingly all ready to go on an alms round – but not really ready! As part of the sadhana, we needed to receive alms from at least 21 people. I started on alms rounds three days after I was initiated into the sadhana, and what I experienced was unbelievable. It has truly changed my perspective about the sacred tradition of bhiksha and about those who follow it. I share below my incredible experience:
On a humid evening, I stood outside the Brahmadev Temple on the main road of Uttan, Bhayander, Mumbai, after taking permission from the priest. As I stood there in the warm glow of the setting sun, shirtless and wielding only a begging bowl, head down and hands stretched out, there was a great deal of anticipation within me.
At first nothing much happened. I stood. I begged. I waited. And then after nearly thirty minutes I received my first bhiksha with trembling hands and shivering legs. Already something had begun to melt within me. Soon more began to happen.
One man noticed me eagerly seeking bhiksha and hesitantly inquired the purpose of my sadhana. Upon hearing my reply, he brought his friends towards me. They all dropped some money in my bowl. To my astonishment, the first man touched my feet and said: “You don’t seem like a normal person. Please give me your blessings.” Tears started to roll from my eyes, and I somehow uttered “May Sadhguru’s blessings be with you!” Then he said with folded hands, “You will get bhiksha from 21 people today; your Master will come to you.”
At 9:30pm, the priest closed the temple and he too put something in my bowl. With this I had 16 people, including a 6-year girl, who had offered me alms so far. But then suddenly, I saw a group of ladies rushing towards me to offer bhiksha. Upon seeing them form a queue to offer, I was overwhelmed. They bowed down and offered whatever they could with utter devotion, and they seemed astounded and touched – so was I. The last woman in the queue asked, “I have been thinking to ask you for the past two hours – as you don’t seem a normal person – may I know your reasons for standing here for bhiksha at this hour?” I told the woman about my sadhana, put on my shirt and got ready to head back home. But she became excited and requested me to wait before running off. I again removed my shirt and waited. A minute later the woman returned with five neighbors who also came to offer the bhiksha.
All this while the priest stood there watching me. As I was leaving, he said, “Please do come here daily for alms!”
This was the first time in my life that I had experienced people offering me something so gracefully without even knowing my name. My second time begging for alms I found myself next to a few street beggars near a temple in Borivali. After standing for five hours that day only three people offered me bhiksha, while many avoided us, but the experience was somehow even more intense.
The lightness of being without ego, of truly having nothing, even for a few hours, has left me much more inclusive and sensitive towards all life around me. I was completely helpless and also simultaneously completely taken care of by both those who were generous and those who were not.
– Denish Makwana, Business Development Manager, Nice Diamonds Pvt. Ltd, Goregaon, Mumbai
Editor’s Note: An initiation into the 40-day Shivanga Sadhana takes places every Purnima (full moon day), at the Isha Yoga Center and various towns and cities in India and around the world. For registration and other info, visit isha.sadhguru.org.