On The Path Of The Divine - Swami Nandikesha
Swami Nandikesha’s journey with Sadhguru is nearly 20 years long and rich with many wild and wonderful moments, from the time he hopped on for an impromptu Himalayan yatra to his fear of snakes which Sadhguru recently shared with the public!
In this series, each month, one of our Isha Brahmacharis or Sanyasis share their individual background, observations, and experiences of what it means for them to walk this sacred “Path of the Divine.”
Making a Commitment
Swami Nandikesha: “Can you commit yourselves to create a joyful, loving, and peaceful world?” asked the teacher lovingly, before he closed the class. I heard myself saying a loud, “Yes!” This little fervor or commitment changed the direction of my life forever.
I did the Isha Yoga class in 1992 with some of my friends. We were a group of typical teens who were exploring and trying new things – of all sorts. After this class, we started to volunteer on initiation days in various towns around Coimbatore, and some of us came to do the Bhava Spandana Program (BSP) with Sadhguru in Tiruppur. Many times during the BSP I felt so high - rolling, jumping, and screaming, I gave the volunteers a hard time. But it was a lot of fun too. During the group photo, I remember I was standing in the middle of the first row together with my other friends, and we pulled Sadhguru to sit on my lap. On January 1, 1993, I sat for Samyama in Tiruppur. Those days during Samyama, when we would get too wild, Sadhguru would send us out of the hall during the processes. One day I got a taste of stillness too!
It was the day when we were asked to meditate upon some element of nature. I chose a tree. I got so engrossed with that tree that I lost all sense of whatever else was happening around me. In my perception, there was not even any sound around me. After some time, I felt a tap on my shoulder. “Come, let’s go inside,” I heard Sadhguru’s gentle voice from behind me. As I paid attention to Sadhguru, I felt that my connection with the tree was broken. Extending both my hands in love, I tried to reach out to the tree, and started to cry, “This maram, this maram... (this tree, this tree)” Sadhguru lovingly nudged me and took me inside. He asked me to have some food as I had missed the lunch break as well. That was the first time in my life where I felt as if I had merged with another life.
By 1993, our group of friends were actively volunteering. In early 1994, Sadhguru announced a 90-day Wholeness program. Since I was in the first year of college, I couldn’t join the program, but all of us came to help the other participants. On July 12, the day the program was to start, there was a roaring storm with heavy rain. The little stream at Iruttu Pallam (a village near the Isha Yoga Center) began to flood and we made arrangements for the participants to stay in Alandurai. The program could start only the next day. One of my friends was a participant and the rest of us came to the ashram a few times to volunteer for the program.
Losing the Frisbee
In 1996, some of my friends were going for the Dhyan Yatra (pilgrimage to the Himalayas) and I had gone to the railway station to see them off. When I entered the train to find them at their seats, we came to know there were some last minute cancellations and some seats were available. “Why don’t you come with us?” asked my friends. Without thinking much, I agreed. Here I was in the train, embarking on a 15-day yatra without even an extra set of clothes! I had no warm clothing, no shoes, nothing. Of course, all this was easily managed with the help of my friends, and the yatra was great fun.
Whenever we stopped anywhere, Sadhguru would play Frisbee with us. Mostly I would just stand and curiously look at the others playing because I didn’t even know how to hold a Frisbee properly. One time, I think it was in Rishikesh, Sadhguru called me and started to teach me how to throw it. After a few minutes, I threw the Frisbee up in the air - it flew far and high and fell into the thick surrounding forest. “I just looked away for a few minutes, and you threw it off,” Sadhguru said to me as he saw that there was no way we could retrieve the Frisbee. I ran to look for it, but it was no use. I was devastated, and even in the bus I wouldn’t stop crying. “This was the only thing that Sadhguru could play with, and I lost it,” I thought and thought... and cried and cried. Suddenly, from nowhere a thought arose within, “It’s okay, such things are not important for a Guru,” and I found myself quietened after this.
Profundity of the Making of Dhyanalinga
Our lives in so many ways revolved around Sadhguru and Isha activities, but the thought that, “we should move to the ashram,” didn’t occur to me for some reason. By 1997, I had completed my mechanical engineering diploma and started three businesses, while I continued to volunteer. “This is our contribution to creating a joyful and peaceful world,” we would say to each other whenever the topic arose. When Sadhguru started work on the Dhyanalinga, none of us really saw this as some religious activity. We simply knew that whatever Sadhguru is doing must be for the wellbeing of the people.
Since I had an engineering background, I used to rejoice that I was called to support some of the construction activities related to the Dhyanalinga. One such eventful day was February 14, 1998, when the Linga was to be fixed into the Avudaiyar. The day before, I had gone to the ashram and made some markings on the Linga and the copper vessel into which it was to be inserted the next day. In the evening, I went to Coimbatore to attend the wedding of my business partner’s brother. The next day at around 3:30 PM, when I was getting ready to return to the ashram, we heard the news about a powerful bomb blast in the city. Within the next 40 minutes, there were five more such bomb blasts. These bomb blasts left nearly 50 people dead and many injured. There was a curfew in many parts of Coimbatore. “How to reach the ashram in time?” was the thought foremost in my mind. Finally, I couldn’t hold myself anymore and simply left from Singanallur for the ashram at around 5:00 PM.
The streets were empty by then, but the situation was still utterly chaotic as there was still the threat of more blasts. I could see ambulances rushing here and there, blood on the road, damaged buildings and vehicles. Many roads were blocked, and I was wondering how to find my way to the ashram. When I was near Gandhipuram, feeling lost, a man came to me and asked for a lift. He wanted to go to Veera Keralam, which is on the way to the ashram. I had him sit behind me without much ado. It just so happened that this person knew the routes very well, and in the next one hour I was at the ashram – just in time for the process.
The process went very well. Later I heard that the previous evening when we were all sitting for dinner, Sadhguru had enquired about me for the first time and had asked somebody, “Who is that boy?”
“Should we move to the ashram full time? It is needed now,” suggested a friend one day, who was also actively volunteering. Without much thought, I simply said, “Yes,” and decided to close the three businesses that I was managing. The wind-up was a bit messy, but it happened with Sadhguru’s Grace and a lot of support from the ashram. It’s very strange that no big decision that I had taken so far had been driven by my desire to be close to Sadhguru. I knew that Sadhguru was the power behind whatever I was experiencing, but I was always fuelled by the profoundness of the activity that he had taken on in the interest of the people. Only on the day of my Brahmacharya initiation, on Mahashivaratri in 2000, I had some grasp of my spiritual journey ahead.
When I Get to Feed the Master
One of the most touching moments with Sadhguru happened during those days. One day I was in Triangle Block during the day and I saw Sadhguru coming in. Seeing him looking here and there, I ran up to him to ask what he was looking for. ”Is there anything light to eat?” he asked. Our morning meal was over, but I ran around and somehow found a few oranges. I knew that for Sadhguru to ask for something to eat, his last food intake must have been many hours before. It pained me that I could find only oranges to offer him. I sat down beside him, peeled the oranges, took the skin off of each slice, and kept them on a plate for him to eat. Sadhguru ate each slice slowly, as if relishing it intensely. Till today, the opportunity to offer him something with my own hand has been one of the highest moments of my life.
Fabrication and Maintenance
After the Dhyanalinga consecration, Swami Nisarga asked me take care of the maintenance department. Since we were not many people at that time and we were on a shoestring budget for everything, I had no option but to learn everything hands-on – plumbing, electrical, telecom, waste management... Those days we were always on the lookout for innovative ways to save money and ashram resources and to increase the efficiency of whatever we did. I remember there was a time when we couldn’t fill the water tanks during the day because the electricity needed to run the motors and push the water up was only provided after 10:00 PM by the Electrical Board.
Another thing was that we were using alkathene pipes to transfer water from one place to another, and these pipes would break two or three times a month. Each time it happened, we had to bring a plumber from Coimbatore and it meant not only the extra money and time, but it also meant having no water for those few hours. Around that time, PVC pipes were becoming popular in India, so I proposed to Swami Nisarga that we convert the entire water pipe system in the ashram from alkathene pipes to PVC. Even though it meant a lot of work and additional expenditure, he agreed. This stabilized our water infrastructure to some extent over those years.
Later, I was asked to coordinate the fabrication work in the ashram. Our first big feat was to facilitate the construction of Chitra Block and later Spanda Hall. The doors and windows of Chitra Block were fabricated in-house with our novice hands and minds, and it was thrilling to be a part of the Spanda Hall fabrication team. It was amazing to see how effortlessly Sadhguru came up with such a unique, aesthetic, yet cost-effective design for it – from the roof, to the pathways, to the entrance door, to the stone snake – everything. We had no option but to be very agile learners – it is true even now.
The Responsibility of Holding Sadhguru’s Trust
Once it happened in 2011 that I was walking behind Sadhguru while he was having a conversation with two political leaders. Suddenly, Sadhguru turned back and asked me, “How many departments do you coordinate, Swami?” “A few, Sadhguru,” I replied. “How many people?” “Maybe 100-150,” I said as I had never counted the number. “See, you don’t have to be an extraordinary person to be a leader. All it takes is commitment and holding the wellbeing of people in your heart,” he said to the politician, pointing at me. This small incident had a profound effect on me. A few years later when I was asked to take on the responsibility of a Group Coordinator (GC, a lead for an Isha entity), this simple trust of Sadhguru held me up and helped me overcome my nervousness of assuming this responsibility. In many ways it is the ethos by which I work with other people too.
Another fundamental that drives the decisions I need to take as a part of my activity is that Isha is an “organism” put together by Sadhguru for the wellbeing of people in the world at large. Specifically for the wellbeing of those who have left everything behind that the world had to offer them and have come here to dedicate their lives. It is not an organization. All of us have our limitations. If Sadhguru can accept me and work with me despite my limitations, who am I to resist working with anyone? And I have also seen that if you trust people and give them freedom, they can amaze you no matter what their current compulsions may be. It doesn’t mean that I don’t take a firm stand when it is needed, but with Sadhguru’s Grace, at least this much has evolved within me that I don’t lose complete trust in a person no matter what happens.
One example in this regard I remember is when, many years ago, I heard some complaints about a sevadhar (laborer) who was up to some ugly mischief. When a few warnings didn’t work, I had to ask him to leave the ashram, explaining to him the consequences of his behavior. He looked sad at the time and I too felt bad about it. A few years later, one day I was coming out of Dhyanalinga and I saw a person running up to me as if we had been friends before. I failed to recognize him, but then he said, “Swami, do you remember me? You fired me from my activity and made me realize what I was doing was not okay. That had so much effect on me, that I worked on it. Now I have a decent job somewhere and I am doing well.” Like this, he offered his gratitude in his own simple way and I felt a sense of relief that I had made the right decision after all.
The GC responsibility also requires me to be in frequent touch with Sadhguru for guidance and to support him in his work. One thing that truly amazes me about Sadhguru is how inclusive he is, and how he is able to keep himself in a certain way no matter what kind of situation is around him or what kind of activity he is doing. Even when people who have been raising false allegations against Isha, or have some vested interests elsewhere, come to meet him under some pretext, I have not seen Sadhguru having any resistance towards them. He says, “My work is with 7.1 billion human beings, and these people are also human beings. They require a little more work, that’s all.” Sometimes he would have meeting after meeting the whole day and my heart would break seeing this. But at the end of the day, Sadhguru looks the same and greets the dogs at his house with the same zest as he always does.
Being Around Sadhguru
Seeing Sadhguru’s concern for people is overwhelming. Recently, he took a walk with the entire Dhyanalinga team from Dhyanalinga to Sarpa Vasal. On the way, he noticed many things that needed attention and pointed those out to us. By the time we reached Adiyogi, the list had become long. Then he stood facing Adiyogi, and bowing to Him with folded hands, Sadhguru said, “All that is happening here is very important for humanity and I have left all this in the hands of all of you. Please take care of this.” It was difficult for me to hold back my tears when I heard him saying this.
The activity has grown many times over since the consecration of Adiyogi. Though it is very fortunate that thousands of people are visiting Adiyogi and the ashram on a daily basis, it sometimes becomes too much to manage for the number of people we have here. But having Sadhguru say this to us was too much. We had to make some changes in our team and the work allocations. Such sudden changes sometimes hurt people around us, but it is so wonderful to see here that eventually everyone comes on board because we are all working for the same purpose, the same cause – the wellbeing of people.
Being around Sadhguru also exposes you to many situations that you may not particularly enjoy. For me, one such situation is dealing with snakes around him. Sadhguru often teases me about my fear for snakes and pushes me to learn to handle them. Recently, a six-foot-long snake just went into Sadhguru’s bathroom, and not knowing what to do with it, I went to Sadhguru to tell him about the situation. “Why don’t you just catch him and leave him out?” he asked. I didn’t move. He understood my “No” and moved on to evict the snake himself. In fact, in a recent Darshan when Sadhguru referred to a Swami who hadn’t learnt how to handle snakes despite being around him for so many years, he was referring to me. It is so uncanny – that very morning Swami Hakesa had asked me to hold a small garden snake. Very reluctantly extending my hand, I had said, “I must learn to handle snakes!” The same evening Sadhguru also reminded me of this big limitation. So, I am making an effort these days.
Even though we work closely with Sadhguru, I don’t see Sadhguru as a person – for me he is Shiva himself. I feel blessed that I live in this consecrated space enveloped in his life energy. Whatever I know today, whatever I can do today, I have learnt here from Sadhguru and the people around me who are together with me on this sacred journey.
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."