I was 25, a Stanford graduate and Ph.D. student. I was a scientist, an academic, a straight A student. I thought I understood it all. Or most of it, anyway. And then I entered His room, in a far off corner of the world, 7000 miles from home, as a river worshipped as the Mother Goddess flowed past.
His eyes pierced the thin veil of understanding I thought I had. His presence caused the very fabric of the world as I knew it to unravel. His words revealed to me, for the first time, the Truth of existence. A wave of the purest love, light, peace and bliss washed over my entire being, penetrating through the skin, deep into the nucleus of every cell of my being. The wave washed through the recesses of my heart, healing – in an instant – pain which had festered there for years. The ocean of his divine light washed through my brain, making a mockery of the education I thought I had received, tearing to shreds the truth my culture had taught. It washed through the very core of my being, bringing every sense, every perception, every thought, every feeling, every emotion to a standstill.
I had been raised to believe that God was not something which could be seen or felt. The God of which my religion taught did not, ever, incarnate in form. We were taught that God could never be seen, but rather was a formless, nameless, unknowable, omnipotent Force. Then, suddenly, unexpectedly, I was face to face with the Divine in the form of a simple, humble Indian saint, draped in orange robes with divine love and light streaming every pore of his being. It was a fact that even the scientist in me could not refute. The Divinity of His presence was tangible, palpable, unmistakable and undeniable. This realization that I was in the presence of God belied everything I’d ever been taught, everything I’d heard, everything I’d read. Yet it was truer than the very fact of my own existence. It was truer than the blue of the sky or the green of the leaves.
I was miles from the home I had always known, miles from my family, from the world I had made my own. Yet as I stood on the banks of Mother Ganga, listening to Pujya Swamiji sing, carrying us on the wings of His voice to God, suddenly nothing else mattered. To be here, on the sacred banks of these holy waters, to have His divine darshan that cradled my spirit and soul. That was all that mattered.
“But how could you take sanyas?” people ask. “You’re so young.” Or they say, “How could you leave everything behind? Don’t you ever miss America? Don’t you ever miss the comfort you had there?” When one is walking empty handed on the beach, one is frequently drawn to the pretty sea shells or rocks on the sand and one might even bend down to pick some up. But, if one were walking with pearls in one’s hands, one would never even notice the seashells or rocks, let alone bend down to collect them. My Guru has poured diamonds into my hands. The diamond of truth, the diamond of peace, the diamond of serenity, the diamond of bliss, the diamond of union with God. How could I bemoan the lack of rocks in my life? How could I miss the days of collecting scattered sea shells when my hands are now overflowing with the diamonds of His grace?