My older brother used to take me by bicycle everyday to school. On my way to school and back , I would stop by at every temple and offer worship. He used to curse me saying that it was bad enough he had to pedal me to school, I also made him stop at every temple on the way as well!
By the time I visited these temples and reached school, it would be almost time to return. I was perpetually late. I used to mark my attendance with all the deities and only then go to school. At every temple, I would prostrate before each and every deity and then only leave the temple. I had a special and long mantra for each deity. If I missed this morning routine due to some urgent work, I would recite the mantras twice the next time, to make up for the lost day, fearing that the deities would be angry with me! I would request them to adjust the previous day’s account appropriately!
I would have camphor pieces in the pocket of my trousers, carefully folded in pieces of paper, with the name of the temple and deity written on each paper. Camphor tablets were expensive, so I used to buy camphor chunks and cut them into small pieces. When cutting the camphor chunks, I was very careful to cut them equally, so that every deity got an equal share! If by mistake a piece turned out bigger than the others, that piece would go to Arunachaleshwara at the main temple. For Arunachaleshwara, I had no problem giving the big piece. There was no scope for comparison where He was concerned!
If I missed lighting the camphor pieces before any deity in the morning, I would light two pieces on my way back, to make up for the loss. On those days, it would take that much longer to reach home! There was an order of temples… First it was Karpaga Vinayagar Temple, then the Police Station Mariyamman Temple, then Arunachaleshwara temple, then Vallabha Vinayagar temple, then the temple in front of Sri V. Thaanmal Sowkar Jain Higher Secondary School, then I would go to school, that’s all!
My brother used to feel very bored and would keep cursing me when he was waiting outside every temple. I would not just bow down to the main deity and come away. I would bow down to the dwarapalakas (the two deities that guard the entrance to the main shrine), enquire after their health, offer worship to Nandi (the bull that adorns the temple entrance) and so on!
My brother would pedal fast whenever a temple approached, hoping I would miss seeing it, but I never missed it! I would scream out, ‘Hey! The Vinayagar temple has come, stop! Stop!’ And he would stop. On the days his patience wore thin, I would walk to school instead of getting a ride, but after two or three days, he would feel sorry for me and offer to take me by bicycle once again!
I never learnt cycling before the age of 12. And after my first experience at the age of 12, I couldn’t ride a bicycle anymore. (At this point in time, one of the disciples commented, ‘Swamiji, even at that time in Tiruvannamalai, you had a driver!’ to which He laughed and concurred.) I never knew that my inability to ride a bicycle was because of my spiritual experience. I was not aware that it had to do with decreased body consciousness that happened after that experience. I used to think I did not have the ability to ride a cycle, that’s all. I was also never aware that there was something different about me. I used to think that everyone was like me. I simply took it for granted. Only later on I realized that it is not for all.