"There are many ways to know yourself”, Goswami said, “but to know the self beyond yourself, there are no ways. It’s all in water, with depths unfathomable. Only those can cross whose hands He holds.”
At an ashram on the river Ganges, close to the holy city of Varanasi, Goswami, as Guru Onkar Swami was lovingly called by his followers, was giving a sermon. Everyone sat in circles around Goswami, in the cottage lighted by a few struggling oil lamps. There was electricity elsewhere in the ashram, but not in this outhouse cottage, which Goswami used for his evening assemblies. “People are going farther and farther away from nature. Let us bring them closer to their mother,” was the reason he had cited when objecting to the extension of the electric lines to this cottage. The wind was gaining force, and a cyclone was not too far away. “Look at the struggle of the lamps against the unstoppable wind. The soul is that light, shinning on even when surrounded by the clouds of ignorance and desires.” Akash, who was given diksha by Guru Onkar with the second name Anandam, sat there at one corner, staring at the flame, fluttering like a butterfly with its legs tied up to the oil-pot. Occasionally he smiled at the flame, and muttered something no one could understand. Some villagers tried to shake him up, but in vain. “He won’t heed you; he is lost. He is ship-wrecked in those waters, struggling to see the light beyond the dark heavens”.
Sitting towards the back of the crowd, Srimati was staring at the man whose words people have gathered to listen. She was mesmerized by the way this Godman was preaching God’s gospels to his fellow villagers. He had saved her from torture at the hands of her husband’s family. They wanted a child which she had been unable to bear, and for that she had to face inhuman treatment for years on end. Finally, her family thought of consulting the Guru, hoping that God’s grace will fall on her and she would bear a child. The Guru asked that the girl and her husband have to spend a night of prayer in the Kali temple. The couple have to come draped in single pieces of white cloth and they should not have any kind of jewellery on them. She was apprehensive of the act in the beginning but consented anyway as she had no other choice. The temple was lit up with oil filled earthen lamps on the night of the prayer, with a variety of flowers placed at the deity’s feet. Incense sticks filled the air with a mesmerizing smell, creating an ambience of magical love. As the couple entered the temple, the Guru placed vermilion paste on their forehead and then asked them to close the temple door. Then he gave them two earthen cups having some potion and asked them to drink it in one gulp. They chanted mantras for an hour past midnight. Then he asked them to stop. She could feel a strange feeling of relaxation in her mind, an openness she had never experienced before. She noticed her husband was drowsy. Guru told her there was nothing to worry and he would be awake soon. It was done intentionally so that the Guru could get the woman’s perspective. Goswami addressed the woman as "Maa", which means mother, as it is the custom in the eastern culture.
“Maa, you are a daughter and it is a social custom that daughters will become wives when they come of age. Being a wife is a call to service and all service finally goes to the Lord. So, in that sense, you are no less than a nun or sanyasin serving the lord. I also understand that it is difficult to be someone’s wife if there is no love and affection in the relation. If you don’t like him at all, and do not want to live with him, you are free to tell me now. But, I must tell you that I studied your birth charts and know that your marriage will work out if you two can show compassion for each other. The choice is yours. You are Shakti, the power behind the marriage, the power behind all creation. The male spirit is Shiva, consciousness which is immobile. The entire cosmos is the grand play of the Shakti with the Shiva. I say Shakti with the Shiva because she is playing with him; she has a power over him which he cannot possibly have over her. In that respect, she is more powerful than him. Your husband is really helpless in front of you and if you want it, you can take him in any direction. I can see that clearly in your aura. Not all women are like you, you are born with a special trait. You are very powerful, just that you are not aware of it.”
Hailing from a rural family of farmers, Srimati had always felt a sense of powerlessness as in every major step in her life, it was always her family members who took the decision and imposed it on her, often without her consent. But, here for the first time, she was told that she had the choice and the power to control her own life. It was a new thought for her, just like other daughters in the country’s hinterland.
“Society always tries to keep the female energy suppressed, lest she rises and takes control over everything. She has tremendous power, and it is this power that society is afraid of. For power, if not used with caution, can also bring about widespread destruction. So, now you have the power to chose – to build or destroy this marriage.”
"But I am not the one straining this marriage. There is only so much you can bear for the sake of marriage."
“Yes. I can understand. And the key is to make your husband your friend, your ally in this. Now your husband will slowly come back to his senses. We shall perform a ritual to ensure your union, if you agree. This union is of the energies that the two of you embody in yourselves, and I am sure you shall fell a deeper understanding and attachment once the auras combine. As you can see, I am asking you for permission and not from him, since your aura is much stronger than his and it is your energy that will control his actions in the future. Shiva is like the rock, which is chiseled and formed into mountains and valleys by the water, the flow of Shakti. You are the source of all power and I bow in front of you now, as I ask for permission to proceed with the ritual.”
“What if I say no?”
“Shiva is static and Shakti is the energy that works on Shiva to create all the variety in life. Hence the marriage of male and female, Shiva and Shakti, is essential for the balance of the universe. The choice is yours, whether you want a marriage or not; whether you want to participate in the grand play of the universe with all your energy and emotions, or stay a bystander watching the play of life. I would say even the bystander fulfills her purpose, but you have to decide what your purpose is.”
“I can see the man in front of me. I have heard your words and I respect them. I understand your direction of thought, though many things you have said are beyond my complete comprehension. I have known this man for sometime now, and I have come to love him for his small mischiefs and tantrums. I cannot think of sharing my life with any other man. I feel that my purpose is in marriage to him.”
“I am honored to know your choice and I will now perform the rituals to unite the two of you. As your husband comes back into his senses, you shall sit in front of him, holding his hands and looking straight into his eyes. Both the contact of the palms and the eyes is necessary to channel the life force from you into him and then circle back into you. Once this cycle of force is established and activated by mantras, it is unbreakable even in afterlife.”
When Srimati came back from her thoughts, she found herself sitting in the satsang, the prayer meeting. Guruji was explaining, “Don’t expect a fair treatment in this world, for other people have always their own motives, some good and some bad. Instead have faith in God’s grace and stay righteous in your deeds. Now, go and touch the Lord’s lotus feet, and let him take away all your misery and pain and relieve you from the burden of the past, opening your eyes to a future of possibilities and wholesomeness. Search for Him within, and you shall find Him.”
Anandam laughed again as he saw the last lamp give up its struggle of existence, and accept the inevitable death as just another stage of life. A sanyasin (female hermit) came running in, clad in a white sari, carrying another lamp in her hand. Anandam saw her half-lit face and recognized her. She was just a day old in this commune, having been deserted by her in-laws after the death of her husband. Goswami took her in the troupe, and asked her to assist the mother in her activities. This girl was still in her twenties, her face glowing with youth and her eyes ever-fixed on the Lord, who gave her such an ordeal so early in her life. He could read her questions, which sometimes perplexed him into questioning the existence of God. If He were there, why would there be so much injustice and discord? Goswami was continuing with his gospel. “Can you see Him sitting beside you, among you? … No. We can’t see Him here. But reality is He only is here, not you or me. Only He is here; He is saying and He is listening. In time, we will all fade into Him, but He shall remain, ever present. We all take pains, to run the world as per our wishes, but after our time is over, we ourselves would not be here, though the world, His maya, will stay.”
The sanyasin went near Goswami and bending forward, touched his feet with full reverence. Goswami lifted his right hand and placed it on her head. He wanted to say something but stopped before uttering a word. She stepped aside and sat near Anandam, who by now was again immersed in the sea of the self. Clouds were gathering outside, heralding the approach of the monsoons, but those that had gathered over his life’s ocean were far darker. There was the sight of the beautiful Shivaliks in the foothills of the Himalayas, over-looking the Sherpa valley. He could see the faces of his old parents, waiting there in the old wooden house for him to return. He was never theirs, but at the time of his birth, they had hoped he would serve as the support of their old age. So when he left home to become a hermit, all hell broke loose on them. He could imagine them in pain, slogging through life with only one desire, to get back their son, but he knew well he was no longer that son they wanted back. For a moment life puzzled him as he thought of the parents lamenting the separation from their son, while on other hand, he could see the daughter deserted by her family. Would my mother have cared for me so much had I been their daughter or daughter-in-law? The answer which emerged made him have pity on humanity.
“There are many ways to reach Him. But first you have to be ready. You have to open your heart to His loving grace, and then you will find him residing there, guiding you to liberation.” Goswami’s eyes fell on Srimati, and he recognized her. He could see how she was transfixed on him, not even blinking her eyes. She was probably the only one there who was absorbing his meaning. "Open your hearts to His loving grace and he will come to reside in you."
Anandam was floating in a different world, a parallel reality which exists intimately interweaved with our physical universe and yet very few people ever get a hint as to its existence. In that universe of energy fields and dream-like waking states, time has only so much meaning as one wishes to make of it. Some ancients thought it as the next higher state of consciousness, though most people seem to experience that world under the influence of consciousness-suppressing weeds. The world that Anandam was immersed in, reflected his innermost thoughts, bringing them to an apparent reality that could be touched and felt, and yet, not fully grasped.