Swamiji as a ten-year-old boy looked up from a small crowd of disciples sitting underneath Annamalai Swamigal. Everyone listened intently to the discourse he was giving.
“We are all beyond pain,” orated Annamali Swamigal. “Pain or pleasure; we are beyond this body”
This profound statement caused many nods among the crowd and signs of understanding. Our very own Swamiji, however, couldn’t understand this. Beyond pain? How could we live beyond pain? Swamiji recalled his mother beating him once. Of course, he felt pain that day- both during and after the episode. This question consumed him. He still thought about it as the discourse concluded and he walked to his street.
Finally, at home, he had grand idea. He decided to test his swami’s statement. He secretly took a large kitchen knife and drew the edge of it sharply against his thigh. His leg screamed at the atrocity Swamiji was doing to it. Vessels ruptured and leaked blood down his thigh. In a matter of a few hours, Swamiji was rushed to the hospital where he got 13 stitches to close the wound he inflicted on himself.
The next day he returned to Annamalai Swamigal. He told his beloved swami what had happened.
Completely amused, Annamalai Swamigal told Swamiji, “My son, you need to contemplate on what the source of your pain is. Where is the pain coming from?”
Swamiji, peeved that this sadhu was feeling none of the regret that he did, still insisted, “You could’ve told me this before I went and cut my thigh right?
Annamalai Swamigal laughed again. “Don’t bother, my son. Don’t bother about this pain. Your courage to experiment with the truth will liberate you!”
With this new homework assignment, Swamiji left the abode and walked up the hill to Arunachala where he sat as a child all the time or played a little bit with his brothers. This rock overlooked the entire city of Thiruvanamalai. Years later, this rock is worshipped as the place that Swamiji had his first enlightenment experience.
Swamiji sat down and closed his eyes. He began contemplating very casually. Without a promise of what the meditation will give him, Swamiji played with the technique he gave him. He began doing this regularly every day.
The day was poornima around sandhya time that his consciousness broke through all impediments in the way. That day, Swamiji sat for a long time for no reason. The shift was sudden. In his own words, Swamiji said, “Suddenly something happened. Like I was being sucked inside, pulled inside. I was sitting with closed eyes but I could see very clearly something was open inside. The moment that opened inside I was able to see whole 360 degree. I saw what was happening on the side, back, other side, front, up and down. Not only I could see, I was able to feel clearly how much you all are alive inside your skin; with the same intensity, I felt that I am alive within everything. How you all feel alive inside your body, same way I felt alive with the whole cosmos- with the whole existence”
From this day, a new life began for Swamiji. It took some time, to settle down- for Swamiji to descend from his spot on the hill and his inner space from the universe. Now he is giving this experience to thousands of people just with the snap of his fingers or the turn of his gaze.