On the Path of the Divine - Swami Nirakara
Swami Nirakara’s first brush with Isha Yoga was back in 1992, almost thirty years ago! He graciously takes us back in time to experience what it was like to be part of Sadhguru’s work through all these years.
A Happy Life
Swami Nirakara : Often, my father would invite Sanyasis and Sadhus home, feed them, and honor them. I too had learnt to prostrate at their feet and treat them with reverence. So around 1989, when my younger brother left home to become a monk at Ramakrishna Math, I found it normal - neither did it inspire me nor did it disturb me. I just saw it as his path, but I never imagined then that one day I too would walk the same path. How did it happen? Was it predestined? I still wonder sometimes when I pause to think about it.
I was working in a bank in Tiruchengode, which was one hour away from my residence in Namakkal. It was a good, comfortable and secure job, and I was happy. On the side, I used to do various social works, and was also a part of a youth club. From time to time, I would arrange yoga and meditation camps offered by various spiritual organizations in Namakkal and Tiruchengode. For me yoga and meditation were some things we do for good health. That's about it. I was so content with all these arrangements that even getting married did not appeal to me.
A Touch of Grace
It was in 1992. One day I got to know that I had been registered for a yoga class and that I ought to attend it. It was a request from some people who had attended a Hatha Yoga class that I had arranged in the town, conducted by some other organization. Since they offered me this with much affection, I sat for the first ever Isha Yoga class that happened in Tiruchengode. I didn't know then that it would become a turning point in my life - even after attending the class I did not feel this first induction into Isha Yoga would take me so far. Swaminathan anna led the class, and Sadhguru came for the Initiation day. That was the first time I saw Sadhguru. During the initiation, participants cried, rolled and did all sorts of things. It was all new to me, but didn't shock me or anything. I understood that they were touched by some grace and knew that Sadhguru is not just a yoga teacher. I personally didn't experience anything extraordinary at that time, though I too felt a reverence towards Sadhguru.
So within a year, I finished the Bhava Spandana (program) with Sadhguru and Samyama later. During the Samyama program, seeing the high energy states the participants got into, I came to understand what a huge being Sadhguru is. I too had some taste of what was being offered there. It so happened one day that I started to chew a candy during one of the breaks. I think it was a Vicks kind of candy that I took to help my sore throat. Before I could chew it fully, the break was over, and we were ushered back into the hall. While I still had that candy in my mouth, Sadhguru too came in and started the session. I didn't know what to do with the candy. "I don't want to swallow it, and I can't spit it out here either,” I thought and decided to continue to chew it until it dissolved completely. Immediately, the candy started to taste so unbelievably bitter that I had to spit it out on the carpet the next moment.
Those days, what happened in the Samyama hall could be witnessed even during the Hatha Yoga classes conducted by Sadhguru. I saw this during the Hatha Yoga class in Tiruchengode - people were crying, rolling, and screaming in ecstasy while doing simple Surya Namaskar. Even during the monthly satsangs, it was a struggle for the teachers to manage the class as people would get into various states. Before the Dhyanalinga consecration, situations around Sadhguru were very intense.
More Than Word of Mouth
I wanted an Isha Yoga class to happen in Namakkal also. Since in those days Sadhguru himself used to schedule the classes, one day I went to his house at 15 Govindasamy Naidu Layout in Singanallur to ask him to conduct a class in my town also. When I entered, Sadhguru and Vijji Maa greeted me, and Sadhguru called me by my nickname. "How does he know my nickname?" I wondered, as I had never mentioned it in any of the registration forms of the programs that I had attended. Anyway it did not surprise me much since I had gotten used to such things happening around Sadhguru.
Sadhguru heard my request and said, "Ok, you get 50 people for the morning class." I was ok with enrolling 50 people, but given our experience of the morning class in Tiruchengode, I wasn't sure if we could get this many people to come in the morning. So I started to explain this to him, but he gave me no choice. He convinced me that morning is the best time to do yoga.
Until then, Isha Yoga classes were promoted only by word of mouth. But I printed some notices and distributed them among the public as I used to do to promote my other social activities. The class was conducted by Sadhguru, and 50 people came for the class. It seemed more than a coincidence. Two out of these 50 took Brahmacharya later.
Each day after the class in the morning, Sadhguru would travel to Velayuthampalayam for the afternoon class, and then to Karur for the evening class. One evening, I also went to Karur to sit for the class as a volunteer. When I entered the hall, Sadhguru had already started the session. But as soon as I stepped in, Sadhguru welcomed me, and asked me (actually spoke to me) to come and sit in the front. After I sat down, I realized that Sadhguru had talked to me in parallel to talking to the participants about the class aspects, so that the class was not disturbed. In other words, it meant that he spoke entirely two different things to me and the participants, without any of us knowing about it, at the same time. Sadhguru later verified that it actually happened that way.
The First Class of 100
After a couple of months, I asked Sadhguru for another class in Namakkal. This time he wanted to offer both morning and evening sessions, and asked me if I could get 100 people to participate. Assuming 100 people for each session, I printed small posters in addition to the printing of the usual notices, and campaigned personally for the class. I was very happy to see that the venue was overflowing with people for the introduction session. After the intro session, many stood in line to register for the class. As soon as the registration crossed 50 for the morning session, the co-teacher asked me to stop the registration. That is when I realized Sadhguru had actually asked for 100 people in total. But I refused to stop the registrations, and finally we had 100 participants for the morning, and 50 for the evening class. The participants were from all walks of life including politicians and other influencers and were very lively and inquisitive. Sadhguru seemed to enjoy the class very much. I think it was the first time we had 100 participants for a single Isha Yoga class!
Sadhguru and Rituals?
Since I was a little rational sort of a person, I was against any kind of rituals. I believed Sadhguru was also against rituals and idol worship like many siddhars I had read about. That was actually one of the reasons why I was attracted to Sadhguru. It was in 1993, during the bhumi pooja of the ashram land, that I saw Sadhguru participating in a ritual. A priest had been called for the pooja, and during the ritual he gave an ashgourd to Sadhguru, and asked him to make some ritualistic offerings. “First the priest is here, and then Sadhguru also has an ashgourd in his hands?” I was confused seeing all this. At that moment, Sadhguru turned towards me and smiled as if saying, "What all I have to do for others!" I too felt amused at the situation after seeing him smiling. It was only during the 1994 Wholeness program, when we understood a little about his hidden agenda, and who he is, that I realized for good that it is futile to judge him for what he does on the outside.
Dropping What Was Picked Up On the Way
I participated for the first 30 days of the 90-day Wholeness program in 1994. Since the next 60 days were mainly for people who were interested either in teaching Isha Yoga programs or moving to the ashram full-time, it didn't appeal to me that much. In any case, I had leave only for one month. The very next day, once I left the ashram after being in the Wholeness program for 30 days, I went to see my other guru who had initiated me years ago. On that day, a public function was organized to inaugurate a new building in his ashram. About 3,000 people had participated in this event. I was a bit late to arrive, but as soon as I entered the venue and was walking to get a seat in the last row, I saw that the guru who was on the dais lifted his head and spotted me with his eyes. I could see he sensed a certain presence around me. That was the day when I knew for sure that Sadhguru was my only guru - my only path.
But still I did not join the first batch of Brahmacharis who were initiated in 1995. One reason was that I was not sure if Sanyasa was my way of life or enlightenment was my goal. To me, as long as I was able to serve people, it was enough. The second reason was that my elder brother recently had died in an accident leaving behind a young wife and two children under 10 years of age. My parents had still not recovered from his death. Since my younger brother had also become a Sanyasi a few years before, I wasn't sure if it was the right time for me to leave them grieving. But I couldn't hold myself for long.
The next year too, when the opportunity came to fill the application for Brahmacharya, I couldn't make up my mind and missed the closing date. But soon after the last date was over, I realized that I was not able to stop myself anymore. I was in the ashram for a program at the time. So that day, when I found Sadhguru walking near Kaivalya Kutir, I went up to him and made my request. Sadhguru asked me to reconsider, reminding me of my parents' situation, and I told him what I thought about the situation. What I spoke to him during that conversation, to my surprise, Sadhguru repeated in a satsang 20 years later - while I had actually forgotten about that. I was really astonished hearing Sadhguru repeating verbatim something that we had talked about two decades ago. But that is Sadhguru!(see Note below).
I remember another incident when I saw this aspect of Sadhguru. One person, after participating in the Isha Yoga class, started to give Isha Yoga classes to others privately, on his own. Maybe to clear his doubts about the class, he started attending satsangs. In each satsang he would pose queries to Sadhguru. After a couple of satsangs, when he stood up with another question, Sadhguru told him, "I know you are giving the classes to others,” and he repeated back to him all the questions he had asked in previous satsangs. That person was shocked to hear this, and we never saw him again in Isha.
After my Brahmacharya in 1996, I was entrusted to conduct satsangs, and "lucky dips" sessions across Tamil Nadu to raise funds for the Dhyanalinga construction. Lucky Dips was a modified version of the "pot luck" game. People had to pick up a chit and pay whatever was written on it. The chits had amounts from Rs. 1 to Rs. 2,500 written on them. So I travelled all across the state, and we managed to raise a considerable amount.
In one particular town, whenever I went there either for the satsang or lucky dips, the coordinator, somehow, missed out on taking care of my food, etc. Somehow, Sadhguru came to know about this. One day when I was supposed to go back to that town, Sadhguru came to Singanallur office from the ashram and called that coordinator to meet him there in the afternoon. I don't know what they spoke in that meeting, but that evening when I went there, I was well taken care of. It seemed more than a coincidence to me. I used to fix my own schedule and hadn't spoken to anyone that I was going to that town the same evening.
In the initial years after I became a Brahmachari, I was staying in Singanallur office. I didn't know cooking at all, and someone else took care of the cooking for us. Whenever there was nothing to eat, I would cook just rice and have it with buttermilk or chutney. One day, I became a bit enthusiastic and learnt from someone how to make dosa flour and prepared it in a mixie! That night, Sadhguru came with Radhe to the office and asked us if there was anything to eat. Gladly, I served dosa and chutney to them. Another day, too, when I made rasam for the first time using the recipe from a cookbook, Sadhguru came with Vijji Maa and asked again if we had something to eat. Not only did he eat the rasam rice, to my delight, he also appreciated it.
A Dangerous Brush with the Himalayas
When Sadhguru sent the second batch of seven Swamis for the Amarnath pilgrimage, we had to turn back midway as there were some reports of violence at Amarnath.
Sadhguru directed us to go to the Himalayas instead. One day during the tour, we went for bhiksha rounds in different directions as per Sadhguru's instruction. When we got back together in the evening, each of us had received different things as alms - one got fruits, another got chocolate, etc. The kind of items we each were given, it looked like we had received what we wished for, or what we liked, or what was our nature. I got raw wheat flour. Yes, it was my nature or interest to cook my own food. So in these many ways, Sadhguru showed us what our qualities are.
Another time, during this trip when we were going up to Bhojwasa, I slipped off a thin make-shift log bridge, into the Ganga that was flowing strongly downstream. Some other Brahmacharis wanted to jump in to help me even without knowing how to swim properly but were wisely stopped by Swami Nisarga. The guide also couldn't do anything. For some time I held on, clasping the log with my hands and legs, while my backpack was pulling me down. After a while, I couldn't hold it anymore, and fell into the river. However, with the little swimming that I knew, I reached the shore. Even the guide understood that some Grace had saved me that day.
After a year of staying in Singanallur, I shifted to the ashram and worked in the office reception. I also took charge of construction cash management - voucher preparation and approval, distributing money to suppliers and sevadhars, keeping the money safe - all that. This later became the Cash Point of Isha. Nearly 10 years ago, a situation came where I had to take care of Tamil Publications, and since then I have been a part of the Tamil Publications department.
Sometimes after moving to the ashram, inspired by the nature around, I started to jog casually - I was not an athlete or into any kind of sports before. One time Sadhguru saw me jogging and asked me to continue. At the time I was well past 40, but after Sadhguru's encouragement, it became one of my regular daily rituals. Later, he gave me permission to participate in marathons also. It gives me a lot of joy to see that now many in ashram are participating in these marathons.
I wish to say that I am fortunate that I was here during the Dhyanalinga consecration and lived in the same period with Sadhguru. I am sure Dhyanalinga is nothing but Sadhguru. The day before the Dhyanalinga stone was shifted and fit into Avudaiyar, Sadhguru conducted a process for it. During the process, I was really astonished to see that there was a light drizzle only around Dhyanalinga - like devas pouring their blessings to Dhyanalinga. It was like a fairytale scene.
All these years, I have been a logical kind of person. Rarely would something disturb me as I find a reason for everything. Even when my elder brother died so suddenly in an accident, I took it as, "Ok, it happened,” and didn't shed tears. But recently one day when I was doing Guru Pooja, I felt tears rolling down my cheeks. Nowadays I get moved and melt within when I see our volunteers working with so much involvement, so selflessly. Much before the Wholeness program happened, Sadhguru once shared with me that lakhs of people in future will join the Isha movement to realize their ultimate potential. It melts me to see that is coming true now.
Only a few generations are fortunate to have a live guru of Sadhguru's caliber. Sadhguru is constantly thinking about how to uplift all - including the beggar on the street. When I see Sadhguru mingling with the poor rural people in such down-to-earth ways, I feel moved and humbled. Sadhguru is as vast as the greatest oceans, but because of his boundless compassion he is living and working amongst us, and works for our spiritual growth, despite us. Only in books had I read about the Nayanmars and Alwars who did miracles like this, but here I have a person before my eyes who is like the highest of the beings I had read about.
Though I felt I missed a few opportunities that he offered to me, it is enough for me that I am able to be one of his disciples. My enlightenment? That is his problem. Really, I don't even think of that. He knows what, when and how to give anything I am capable of. Since he knows me better than I know myself.
Note: This is what Sadhguru recounted in the satsang about Swami: “Swami suddenly declared, ‘Sadhguru, I want to take Brahmacharya and come with you. I said, ‘Are you sure? You have a job, you have old parents. Well, you're not married, but you have other things, isn't it?’ He said, ‘Ella nadulae vandhadhu dhanae, Sadhguru,’ That means, ‘All these things I picked up only on the way, isn't it?’ So he means, ‘On the way, somewhere, I have to drop it. This is my time.’”
Editor’s Note: Watch this space every second Monday of the month as we share with you the journeys of Isha Brahmacharis in the series, "On the Path of the Divine."