On the Path of the Divine - Maa Gambhiri
Here, Maa Gambhiri candidly recounts her transformation from a young aspiring pilot to a devoted sanyasi, Sadhguru’s metamorphosis from a yoga teacher to a Guru, how the Dhyanalinga consecration impacted Sadhguru’s body in front of their eyes, and other landmark experiences from the early days until now.
Maa Gambhiri: "Sorry, this parking space is reserved for Jaggi," the volunteer told me politely. "How unfair,” I grumbled as I drove from one lane to the next trying to find another parking spot. I had come essentially for my sister who wanted to attend this yoga class, hoping it would help her asthma condition. I somehow landed up with the responsibility of dropping and picking her up, hence I also landed up in the class. As an active girl just out of my teens training to be a pilot, the yoga class was certainly not something I fancied.
So here I was, sitting grumpily in the class, expecting someone like a gym trainer to walk in and show us some yoga poses. To my utter disappointment, a few minutes later a bearded man entered the class in his white kurta and dhoti walking very gently. It wasn't a great beginning at all. Though I found Sadhguru's voice very arresting, I didn't pay much attention. In fact, the next day I drove in early and stole his parking spot! Feeling very satisfied, I sat in the class, but this second day felt different for both of us. On our way back, we usually chatty sisters, hardly exchanged any words between us. Third day, his parking spot was available, but I chose not to take it. That day, I sat in attention, listening to every word with absolute focus. To my surprise, he came up to me after the class and casually talked to me about my flying experience.
That night I did not sleep.
I had no clue about what a spiritual path is, what enlightenment is, or what a guru is. And I didn't know who Sadhguru is, but I felt I had known him forever. There was an utter clarity within me that day that this path, whatever it was, would be my life, but I had no idea how. From then on, I started to actively volunteer. Since I was so young, my parents were worried whether I really understood what it meant to walk this path. So they met Sadhguru to understand what was happening. After the meeting, Sadhguru advised me to take a 3-month break and see if this was what I really wanted. My parents packed me off to UK, but of course, my clarity was for real, and I came back just in time for the 90-day Wholeness program.
I am grateful to my parents who respected my decision and blessed my journey ahead.
From Yoga Teacher to Guru
What I saw of Sadhguru during the 90-day Wholeness program matured my relationship with him in so many ways. Every day he would come looking very different, and exuding totally different energy. For the first 30 days, each day he would conduct a new yet explosive meditation. Many of us had visions of life beyond our normal sense perception. At the end of the 90 days, I felt as we moved from being friends to disciples to devotees, so too, Sadhguru's persona morphed from being a yoga teacher, to a mystic, to a guru. Though most of us never articulated this within us, it happened inadvertently. I simply stayed on as a full-time resident after the Wholeness – it was not a matter of choice anymore. Soon I had to taste what it means to walk the path choicelessly.
Finding My Balance
After the Wholeness, my energies opened up in such a way that I was facing peaks of joy and peaks of hell within me on a daily basis. For a 20-year-old girl, it was too much to bear sometimes. A day came when I felt I had hit the pit within, and I called up Sadhguru for help. “I have given you all the tools that can bring you out of this,” was all he said and put the phone down. I thought about it and made my own sadhana schedule. For the next 48 days, after my morning practices and meal, from morning 10:30 to evening 5:30, I sat on a stone under a neem tree that we called Shivalaya, and did 3 hours of AUM chanting and 3 hours of Sukha Kriya followed by Samyama meditation. I would set my foot down on the earth only in the evening to go for Presence and evening practices. This sadhana followed by Samyama brought me an inner balance that till today carries me through situations in so many ways. This was a turning point in life that grounded me to the path. I was initiated into brahmacharya in 1996.
Vijji Akka's Bisibele Bhath
We were just five people at the ashram in the beginning. Our beloved Patti would cook for us over the fire wood stove. A small security shed doubled up as kitchen cum dining. I used to assist Patti in her work. Sadhguru would join us in cutting vegetables whenever he was in the ashram. Once Vijji cooked bisibele bhath for us. She asked Sadhguru how it was, hoping for some appreciation and he replied saying, "Hmm... Very nice sambar sadam!" She looked so crestfallen. Their banter was something we enjoyed tremendously.
Vijji and I connected very well with each other from the very beginning. Whenever she was in the ashram, we used to do our practices together. On the day she left her body, actually I was with her through the day.
On Jan 23, 1997, a full moon day, Sadhguru called and asked me to be with Vijji. She was on a certain sadhana, so I sat with her either meditating or assisting her in cooking for the brahmacharis. She used to serve us a meal on full moon days. However, after our first meditation session, she walked straight to Sadhguru's desk and picked up a diary and handed it to me saying, "Henceforth, you write all Jaggi's appointments in this and send it to him.” I protested mildly. I was very comfortable letting Vijji know Sadhguru's appointments and in turn she would inform him. It had been working very well, so I could not understand why she wanted to change that. But she insisted. I took it thinking that I was not going to do it anyways. Never knew her grand plans of leaving her body the very same evening.
I have the diary with me till date. Not just as a souvenir from her but a huge reminder of the possibility that exists here. In my moments of despair and frustration, it has kept me going.
The Cost of Consecration
Meanwhile, Sadhguru had started working on the energy processes related to Dhyanalinga consecration and we had no idea what it meant. Sadhguru had been preparing us for the event that he might leave his body after the consecration – he had, in fact, already built his samadhi beforehand. We were in turmoil within ourselves; while we wanted Dhyanalinga to be consecrated, Sadhguru's life was too precious for us. So not knowing how to help the situation, we brahmacharis decided to do whatever we could to ease his life. We were all very young, so first we decided that we would not fight amongst ourselves and that we would sort our differences among ourselves instead of bothering him. Second, we started doing the Chit Shakti meditation to wish a long life for him. We did the meditation every day for several weeks.
As we neared the completion, Sadhguru wouldn’t give us a date for the final consecration as he wanted his system to be fully ready. First, he said it would happen soon; then he started to say, "Okay, maybe tomorrow, maybe the day after.” We were living at the edge of our lives waiting for that day. On June 23, 1999, Sadhguru said that the consecration would happen the next day. He told me to invite only a few very disciplined volunteers who would not disturb him in the final phase of this process. So we had about 150–200 people sitting in the dome.
During this process, the invited meditators sat with their backs to the Linga and brahmacharis sat facing the Linga. Sadhguru was on the avudaiyar. Towards the end of a certain process, he said "Agna.” We followed the instructions he had given us earlier and went along with the process. Then he said "Vishuddhi” then "Anahata.” When he said "Manipuraka,” he bent forward as if in pain. Then he said, "Swadhishthana” and he looked very unstable on his feet. Seeing this, I was sitting almost on my toes. Finally, we heard him saying, "Muladhara" and next we saw him falling down. I instinctively ran and put my hand under his head before it would hit the avudaiyar stone. By then the other brahmacharis also came and gathered around.
We carried him out to a vehicle and to his house and did not see him for 3 days after that, except for a brief appearance for the gathering of volunteers. Even then he had to be supported by the brahmacharis. I was restless, hoping for a reassuring word about his health. Three days later I got the message to come and meet Sadhguru and there he was sitting on his easy chair, smiling and looking glorious. I held on to him and wept. He was in tears too. Everything felt perfect in that moment. He was there, alive... with us.
Isha Begins to Grow
With consecration finished, the activities multiplied and we were all multitasking. From housekeeping to kitchen to ashram administration, my own activities kept growing. One thing about Sadhguru is that he makes everything very celebratory, so although we were working day and night, there was so much exuberance around.
We also had plenty of fun putting together infrastructure and systems. I remember Swami Nisarga and I planning the new kitchen at Spanda Hall. Later I spoke to a Chettiyar family for guidance on vessels for this kitchen. This community is known to give out a whole store of vessels in dowry (apart from gold and diamonds!) and they offered to sell their dowry to us at a nominal price. We enjoyed picking out spoons, bowls, plates, serving spoons, tumblers, large cooking vessels and other kitchen appliances from this dowry. One woman's dowry set our entire kitchen!
We also set a monthly ritual. All of us would come together in the kitchen once a month – some to cook, some to help and some to playfully disturb. On this day we used to eat out together in the garden, and Sadhguru too would join whenever he was in the ashram. Once he said to let this tradition continue and to do it on Pournamis – switch off all the lights and eat out in the moonlight. That's how our much loved "Moonlight Dinner" came to be.
An Unexpected Revelation
Later in the years when lsha Yatra became my primary responsibility, Sadhguru asked me to explore if we could take meditators to Kailash Manasarovar in Tibet. So in 2006, we took the first 160 meditators on this sacred yatra. I was busy with organizing work and never once thought of Kailash and Manasarovar in a spiritual context. It was an activity which had to be done well.
When Sadhguru's jeep stopped at one point, and I saw him getting out, I too got out of my vehicle that was following his. There was a large lake in the distance straight ahead. Something shifted within me as I looked at it. My eyes welled up. Until then I hadn't once thought that I was on pilgrimage to such a powerful space – it was all about organizing. I turned towards Sadhguru, and he was in tears too. Since then, organizing Kailash Manasarovar yatra each year has become an integral part of my life. Though it means insurmountable jugglery to safely send hundreds of meditators from different countries to a barren high altitude region in China, I unreservedly feel fortunate and blessed to be given this responsibility.
The Bliss of the Pain
Something very different happened to me during the yatra in 2009.
While going up to Kailash, I had an accident where I suffered multiple fractures in my wrist. Luckily one of our doctors reached there in ten minutes and fixed it temporarily. The pain was still unbearable though. They gave me several injections and painkillers, but nothing worked. The pain wouldn't let me sleep. I sat supported by pillows, with a view of Kailash from the window and my roommate asleep next to me. At some point, I found myself chanting "Shambho" within myself and soon enough I was chanting "Sadhguru" in the same way. I had not intended to chant, but it was going on continuously. I didn't even know that we could chant "Sadhguru"! Slowly I realized there was a distance between the pain and me. The excruciating pain was still very much there, and yet, I was not in pain.
When I returned from Kailash that year, I knew something fundamental had changed within me. "But what is it?" I would wonder. Only after a few days, I realized that for as long as I have known, since childhood, no matter how joyful I was, I always had an inexplicable pain within me – that pain was gone!
Another time, when I was feeling low, I went on my usual evening walk towards Shivapadam. As I walked, feeling the gentle breeze on me, I felt a calmness overtaking me. I slowed, and looked at the mountain. I felt a feeling of all-inclusiveness creeping up on me. The sky, the mountains, the breeze, the trees, and all the life around felt as one within me. The feeling lasted for a while. For many days after that, I walked barefoot as I felt very connected to the touch of the earth, and I felt a sense of deep silence within.
My most wonderful and transformative moments happened when I least expected them.
Envy of the Gods
In the initial years, from the humble beginning on a small piece of land, we would dream of a time when the world would recognize Sadhguru for who he is. It is extremely heartwarming to finally see that happening. From accompanying Sadhguru in his search for this ashram land till today, it is my privilege to be on this journey end to end. Sadhguru had once said that we must create a space that even the Gods would envy. Well, I live with the One who makes them.
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."