Devotion Filled Bicycle Rides to School

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!

You can Bhagavan on the far left of his brothers just as they were at this age

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.

The Habit of Anna Dhaan

I have the mental set up of giving food to all people. I learned this from my grandfather. He will go to temple every day, search for sadhus near the temple,  bring them home, make them sit, recite some purana or stotra like shiva puranam, then give them aarathi, give them some money, then feed them and after that only he will eat. He never taught me anything but was just the strong influence. Once I caught one guy who had come as a sadhu to our house, doing something else during some other time. I came and told my grandfather that he is not a sadhu and he is doing something else in other time. He said don’t bother, even in that ½ hr if he is wearing all the saivite symbols like kumkum and rudraksha, give him food. At least for the sake of food, he will remember God and will be tuned to our tradition. Then slowly, he may become that permanently. In India if you try to be a sadhu all the basic needs are fulfilled. That trend should be maintained in the society.

I learnt the mental set up. Now that I have money, thousands of sadhus are given free food in our Tiruvannamalai ashram. 

A Healing Slumber

 ThathaEvery night before falling asleep you should read at least a few pages of the Bhagavad Gita. I tell you – you would bless yourself, you would feel happy for yourself if you can read at least a few pages of the Bhagavad Gita every day. I learnt this habit of reading a few pages of sacred scriptures before falling asleep from my grandfather. He used to go to sleep at twelve o’clock in the night. But even at that time, he would sit and chant Jnana Sambandar’s Tevaram. He couldn’t read English, he could read only Tamil books.

One hour he would chant and nobody in the room could sleep. He used to sleep in the hall. I was very close to him. He was my favourite and I was his pet because I was given his name. My pre-monastic name is his name, so I would sleep next to him only. Nobody could sleep in the hall.

He had a beautiful voice. He would chant the Tiru Jnana Sambandar and Manikcyavasagar’s Tevarams and Tiruvasagar, the sacred sentiment verses. And after some years before his passing away, last few years he lost his eye sight. He couldn’t read. He trained two of his sons to read these verses for him. One nice thing, even my uncles went and learnt properly to recite these verses for him and every night they would sit and recite at least one hour for him.

The little bit of Tamil knowledge I have on the Tevaram, Tiruvaasagam all that I learnt from him only from every night chanting. But I picked up this habit of reading at least some sacred scripture before going to bed from him. It enriches the quality of consciousness in which you sleep and in which you function and in which you act and in which you flow, which you carry your whole day.

The essence is to give up the clinging for the reward. I tell you – you may think, “Oh, I know all these ideas, what is there?”

No. your brain needs to be reminded all the time again & again & again because forgetfulness is the basic quality of your mind. Reminding yourself again & again is the highest spiritual practice. So give up the attachment to the reward. Give up the clinging for the reward, radiate tranquility, the highest tranquility. I know the kind of a faith about his own body and mind and consciousness, my grandfather used to have!