I woke up quite early next morning as Shankar ji had requested me to come for sevā, when the sādhaks departed for the train to Mumbai. Bala annā and I started taking the luggage from Annakṣetra towards the bus and finished loading the same. After ensuring all had boarded the bus safely, everyone chanted “Har Har Mahadev” and “Narmade Har!” I then got down and made my way towards SK. A short while later, I went to DA to help with the luggage for the sādhaks on the Mangalore route. After assembling the luggage at one point, I went to Swamiji’s room to bow to him and take his blessings. Vinod ji lovingly asked Swamiji to visit the Ashram again and said that his room would always be kept ready for Swamiji’s use!
Then while loading the luggage, I met Bhakta ji inside the bus and I bowed down to touch his feet. I couldn’t get the good fortune of spending time with him at the camp, but had heard from others that he had done lot of sevā activities in his younger days. Once everyone assembled at DA and got into the bus, they then made their way towards SK – to unite with a few others waiting there with their luggage.
My final visit to Narmada Mātā and Gita Mandir
Asmita didi, Srilatha ammā and myself started walking down the road from DA towards our Narmada Mātā’s temple on the way to SK. My heart longed to see Narmada Mātā one final time before leaving from here and to splash her holy waters on my head. But I hadn’t got time since early morning, due to back-to-back sevā activities for the departing sādhaks. Narmada Mātā must have divined this desire in my heart! All of a sudden and to my surprise, Asmita didi pointed to a stray dog walking nearby and simply said, “You have to follow him!”. It took me a few seconds to understand why she said that. Then I observed that the dog was moving towards the path leading to Somnath ghat steps! I immediately said to Asmita didi about the desire in my heart, but didn’t know whether to go or not – since I thought some sevā may still be required, to board the remaining sādhaks at SK on the bus to Mangalore. To this, Asmita didi without a second thought asked me to go to Narmada – if that desire had come to see Her! Srilatha ammā also asked me to go and said it would do me good!
I then immediately made my way down Somnath ghat and saw Narmada Mātā waiting there for me! A strange peace continued to fill my heart entirely as I reached the bank. I respectfully bowed to Her, dipped my feet in and then splashed the waters on my head and offered Tarpaṇ to the Gods and elders. Then for some strange reason, I wet my head completely and also my face and neck with Her waters and my hands and feet were also wet by now. My heart filled with joy seeing the various fish swimming in Narmada (like little children playing with their mother!). Then I realised that I was yet to have my bath and breakfast before our group departed for Bangalore. I did a final bow to my Narmada Mātā and then heard an inner voice quite clearly – ‘I’ll always be with you!’. Joyfully thanking Her, I then made my way up the slope of the ghat – while at the same time collecting some trash fallen there as a small service to Her and later disposing it off.
When I reached the top, my heart desired to see the deities at Gita Mandir one last time and I also wanted to take their photos – but I knew I hadn’t taken a formal bath yet and how do I now enter the temple? I thought let me see them from a distance at least, standing outside at the doorstep. When I reached Gita Mandir, by Bhagavān’s grace, Swami Omkaranandaji was standing near the entrance talking to someone. I respectfully did my pranāms to him. He asked if we were leaving that day – to which I answered in the affirmative. Standing there at the doorstep, my heart longed to see the deities – Gītā Mātā and others from a closer distance! I asked him if I could go inside but immediately added that I hadn’t taken a bath – hence, I probably couldn’t go, to which he simply nodded. Then I remembered that unknowingly, I had almost taken a bath in Narmada Mātā earlier! I once again asked him if I could enter and this time, said that, I had splashed the waters of Narmada Mātā on my body and if I could go inside. To my great joy, he gave me permission to enter and also to take photographs. I then made my way to the deities and prostrated to all of them gratefully. I also prostrated to the Gita Mandir hall itself, which was a hallowed building – with so many Satsaṅgas and spiritual talks having happened there by now. When I stood in front of the Lakshmi and Narayana mūrtīs, my inner voice clearly asked me to sing a couple of bhajans for Him. I sat down and started singing with tears of joy and gratitude in my eyes, thanking Bhagavān for having given me another chance to see Him up close. Then I bowed one final time and left, with sweet memories of this place and the various deities imprinted firmly in my heart!
Unexpected visit to the famous Peepal tree again
I then proceeded to Kuber Bhandari temple to have a simple but wonderful breakfast of pohā (flattened rice) and ginger tea made from jaggery (one of the tastiest teas that I have ever had!) and then quickly had a darśan. When I reached SK, I saw the sādhaks already assembled there waiting for the bus and ready for departure – but the bus was nowhere in sight! At that time, Vinod ji asked me to show the way to the peepal tree to a couple of ammās, who wanted to visit it, but hadn’t got a chance earlier and didn’t know the way. I nodded and immediately made my way there, closely followed by them and we reached our destination after a brisk walk. I asked them to return shortly as people would otherwise have to wait for them and then made my way back to the camp when I saw a board of Gītā Guphā (cave) on the way. I hurriedly went inside and down the cave to a small shrine where photos of Mahātmās were kept. I bowed to them and then saw a board with wise sayings and took a picture of it to read later (some sādhaks had already mentioned about it). As I exited, I saw the two ammās making their way in. I reminded them again to come soon and then rushed back to the camp. I hurriedly packed the last few items and brought my bags down and we all left the camp on time as planned.
Shopping for loved ones
Since our flight to Bangalore was in the evening, we had planned to reach Vadodara and do some shopping, have lunch and then depart for the airport. We had a scrumptious lunch in a nice restaurant called ‘Saasu maa’ – recommended by Kirit bhai. After lunch, Asmita didi asked me if I would like to buy something for my wife. Since I didn’t know where it was available and was also not very good at choosing dresses, I hadn’t thought about it earlier. But when she mentioned this, I immediately agreed and asked for her and a few other akkās’ help to choose.
Unexpectedly, Asmita didi again did me a very good service! I found her to be a very caring person, while also being an effective leader! She was also very practical and courageous enough to do the right thing while taking any decisions for the group and didn’t just take the easy option of following the majority! Also, she had been like my reins on occasions, when I was running around like a young horse in my eagerness to do sevā! She had then guided my energies in the right direction!
We then entered one shop, from where she had bought some dresses for herself earlier, before lunch. We selected a couple of clothes for my mother and wife and I along with Asmita didi were looking for one more dress to buy for my wife – but couldn’t find any that we liked for what seemed like a really long time! Then finally, out of desperation, I exclaimed, “Where is Shalini ji?” – one akkā in our group who seemed to be quite knowledgeable in clothes – thinking that she could spot something that we couldn’t. My action may have unknowingly hurt Asmita didi a bit, as she immediately said in a jesting sort of a way, “So I am of no help at all!” I instantly said, “No, it’s not like that.” I didn’t know how else to console her. I later repented and apologized to her for my seeming ingratitude, though done unknowingly. She was the one who had always stood by my side, helping and guiding me – just like Krishna did always for Arjuna! The life lesson I learnt here is, not to search for experts – when there are noble hands already willing to help you!
Later on, I found what I was looking for in another shop, where I was helped by Shreenivas Phani Sir. He has been associated with the Mission for a long time and I was fortunate to have his company during the trip. He was a quiet, contemplative sādhaka and was always cheerful and humorous. His humility and silent observation of events around him, along with great practical and timely solutions to problems, pleased me immensely. I couldn’t find any shops with something to buy for my children. We then proceeded towards the airport, dropping a few sādhaks on the way and then boarded the flight and finally reached Bangalore and home on time that night!
The strange condition
After returning from the camp, it seemed to me like I had taken a re-birth and lived an entire short lifetime in that camp and trip! Memories of the camp kept coming back to me after reaching home, not giving me any peace to focus on other matters that needed my attention. I later understood why the merciful Bhagavān doesn’t give us memories of our past lifetimes – else our mind would keep going back there and simply forget the present! My mind had become so used to the camp activities that nothing seemed to interest me anymore at home, other than thoughts of the camp or thoughts of Bhagavān! It felt like He had made me incapable of doing anything else! I couldn’t focus on office work as well and didn’t know what exactly was happening to me! Finally, I decided to talk to Swamiji and explain to him the current strange state of my mind!
I found out from Roopa ammā, when would be a convenient time and then called up Swamiji. After listening to me patiently for a couple of minutes, Swamiji quickly understood my situation. He said that he had seen the same thing happening to other sādhaks as well! This instantly gave me some relief that mine was not a unique case! He jovially said that my situation seemed like a plane that had taken off earlier, but was yet to land properly! He then went on to say that what I was experiencing was nothing but ‘soda-bottle’ inspiration, as aptly put by him – a phenomenon generally experienced by mostly first-time campers. Just like a good doctor who knows his profession well, Swamiji said this condition in me would last for probably two to three days and then gradually disappear!
The practical remedy
He then very kindly gave me a very practical solution by asking me to do some Japa (repetition of a mantra or a divine name) in order to bring back the focus and single pointedness in my mind towards the present everyday tasks. He asked me to take a saṅkalpa (resolve to focus on a specific goal) in front of Bhagavān to complete a pre-defined number of Japa mālās while praying to Bhagavān each time “to give me focus and single pointedness”. He asked me to spend relatively less time on work – only on that day – and more on Japa to complete my saṅkalpa. He then wonderfully described the glory of Japa, which is just like a parachute brake used by fighter jets to land quickly and smoothly! I then proceeded to do exactly as instructed by Swamiji. I realised that as I did more and more Japa, my focus slowly started returning to me!
That evening after our daily ārati to Bhagavān, I sang one bhajan and then got up from my prayer seat. I then saw my wife looking at me, with slightly fearful eyes like I was a stranger to her! She had seen me doing Japa multiple times that day and was probably thinking, ‘What has really happened to him?!’ She then calmed down after I told her about my conversation with Swamiji and my subsequent saṅkalpa. That night after dinner, I completed the last Japa mālā as per my saṅkalpa and feeling fully satisfied, then retired to bed.
Inspiration to write this blog
That day I had also heard my inner voice, clearly inspiring me to write a blog about the camp – describing the events that I had seen and heard there. I was also inspired to glorify Bhagavān and his devotees in this blog. I immediately bowed to His wish and then made up my mind to start on this endeavour! Once I made a start, I resolved this would be my single pointed sādhanā, temporarily giving up all other sādhanās like Japa, Meditation, etc, till this work was completed – in order to please Him. Later, I also thought that penning down my different thoughts of the camp on paper, will free my mind and give me some peace!
The very next day, I remembered Bhagavān and my Gurus and then started writing this blog. On doing some mananam (quiet reflection), I understood why glorification of the Lord’s devotees is absolutely necessary. This is not to be mistaken as glorifying their ego! Actually, its glorifying none other than the almighty Bhagavān Himself – who clearly manifests Himself, only through his devotees! His true devotees also know this, as they consider themselves insignificant in their own eyes! Also, there’s a great amount of learning, from the day-to-day life activities of the devotees of Bhagavān – for all those who have not yet become His devotees, or who are His part-time devotees or even those who are His full-time devotees! I remembered that I hadn’t got an opportunity yet, to read the detailed life stories of great devotees of Bhagavān – like Tukārām, Jñānesvara, etc. – though I had desired the same. But now, I considered myself really fortunate to have learnt first-hand from so many of His devotees, and that too, in such a short time!
I realised the true value of time and that I needed to spend my time very carefully from now on – in order to complete the blog on time, while also performing my other duties. I also found that my earlier focus and single-pointedness returned to me by the grace of the merciful Bhagavān, as I could now do all my household and office duties with focus and peace of mind.
Offering sincere gratitude
I offer my sincere gratitude to Bhagavān, to Pujya Gurudev, to my Guru – Swami Aparajitananda, to Narmada Mātā and all deities of Gita Mandir, Swami Omkaranandaji and to all sādhaks from the camp for having given me these divine experiences! The moments captured in this blog, are as seen and heard with my two tiny eyes and ears and as felt by my tiny heart! Except for Swamiji’s talks, I had not taken any other notes and what is written here is purely out of recollections from my memory of the camp and as guided by Him. Please forgive me if I have hurt anyone’s feelings, which is completely unintentional.
Drawing from my learnings, I humbly and sincerely urge all sādhaks to involve themselves in the loving service of all around you, thereby serving Him alone – no matter where you are today and wherever His will takes you in future! Let another near you, breathe easier – because He sent you there! My greatest learning of life is the aforesaid, which is one of the simplest and best ways to purify one’s mind and to quickly win the grace of Bhagavān! And when His grace is won, is there really a need for anything else to be achieved!? Bhagavān will then make sure we achieve everything that we need from life!
I sincerely pray to Bhagavān and Pūjya Gurudev, seeking early Liberation for all the sincere seekers who are constantly trying to please Him, with one of the ways being – doing the loving service of all around them. May we always learn to observe the Bhakti and Sevā bhāvana of all the true devotees of Bhagavān, scattered around us like hidden gems and learn valuable life lessons from them!
My humble gratitude again to Pūjya Gurudev, my Guru – Swami Aparajitananda and the entire Guru paramparā for their boundless compassion to impart this divine Knowledge about right living and Meditation to us ignorant ones from time immemorial!
My humble gratitude to all who helped me to bring this blog to reality. My gratitude to Swamiji for his encouragement, to Jital ben for her excellent work in proofreading this blog, adding Sanskrit transliteration and useful suggestions, to Asmita didi for her valuable suggestions and inputs, to Nayana akkā and other sadhaks for providing beautiful photos and to Roopa amma for technical assistance to publish it.
– Krishna Dāsa
|| Om Tat Sat ||
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