Friday, May 13, 2011

Some "electrifying" experiences

Om Ganeshaya Namah:
Om Gurubyo Namah: MAY 4TH, 2011.
Sri Bala Charanam.

On physiological transformation and the process of realizing Divine Inner Self; Siddhar Sri Balu Swamy’s mystical powers; some “electrifying” experiences and more Paintings!

Introduction:
Since publishing my last post in November, 2010, I have undergone many unusual experiences I’d like to share with my readers. I feel the unseen hand of Siddhar, Sri Balu Swamy guiding me although I haven’t precisely followed the instructions he gave me while conferring Mantra Upadesam in September, 2010.

These incredible events progressed in a sequence as if orchestrated by a Divine Inner force, targeted to remove all pre-conceived notions of spirituality as well as vestiges of left-over karmas and vasanas (samskaras) that were blocking my progress on the spiritual path. Most importantly, my experiences prove beyond a shadow of doubt that unless, and only when the physical body has undergone purification at both the gross and subtle level, can a person be placed on the path to Moksha or God-realisation.

The truth has always been very simple. The Mahavakyas ( Great sayings) in the Upanishads keep reiterating that “You” are “God”. Not “God-like”, but You are the Divine Force itself. There is absolutely no ego attached to this statement because the person who truly realizes this fact will be completely transformed in every way. At the level of the gross, physical form of the body as well as at the highest level of the intelligence principle acting within him, a person who is “with” and “in” God at all times attains a complete metamorphosis and obtains complete liberation whilst the body is still functioning or alive.

A lot of us are “intellectually” conscious of these profound statements in the Upanishads. However, in recent months I have been made aware , through personal experience, that unless every single cell in the body is transformed through “Divine Grace”, this shell we call the body can never become a proper vessel to house the divine, cosmic power that is the Creator or God. “You” are God. “You” become God only in this manner.

I have always maintained that my art work is a reflection of my inner progress. As if to lend credence to this claim, I received a “divine directive” to execute a series of 11 paintings, on the auspicious day of “Thai Poosam”, on January 19th, 2011. In what follows, I shall narrate the succession of events that caused the paintings to come about, the significance of the special order in which they were done, their symbolism and contribution to my inner development.
Although I didn’t realize it at the time, the start of this decade has also brought me to the threshold of a new chapter in my spiritual journey.






CHAPTER ONE.

I woke up on the morning of January 19th, 2011, with a very firm conviction in my mind I had to draw a Sri Chakra. It was as though this was the main agenda for the day and nothing else was important. I checked the calendar and discovered it was an auspicious day called “Thai Poosam”. The month of “Thai” ( mid-January to mid February) marks the start of a period that is sacred to Lord Muruga, Shiva and Devi and the day governed by the star “poosam” is called “Thai Poosam”.
I hadn’t done any paintings in over a year and this “order” seemed hard to ignore. During this period, I was reciting the mantra given to me by Siddhar Balu Swamy in September, 2010. At that time, he advised me categorically to remove all other mantras from my mind and also “erase” all notions of deities with various names and forms, be it Sri Bala or Murugan or Pillayar. Although I found this difficult to achieve, I persisted in sticking with meditation, breath control and mental chanting of the mantra in the manner prescribed by Sri Balu Swamy. I recited the mantra whenever it was convenient for me. However, at the same time I was also listening to slokas and hymns in praise of various deities. In other words, I carried on with activities that my mind had been “used” to or “pre conditioned” to perform.

In the early part of January, I experienced strange physical sensations on a couple of occasions. One morning, around 6 a.m. when I was half-awake and deciding to get out of bed reluctantly, a faint tingling sensation distracted me. This was coming from the big toe of my right leg. A warm, sensation seemed to be spreading slowly up the leg and within a few seconds, this sensation intensified . I quickly “lost control” of my physical body as what seemed to be a bolt of electricity spun my body around for a few seconds. And then, it was over. This event happened once again, in the same manner, a few days later. Although I knew that this was the surge of the Kundalini Shakthi, and had experienced mild electrical impulses in my body over the past few years, I felt convinced that Sri Balu Swamy had provided me an added impetus when he gave me the “Shakthi Pat” ( Upadesam of mantra) in September, 2010.

However, I carried on my usual routine and did not analyse these physical experiences too deeply. I didn’t see or wish to accept Balu Swamy’s premise that any deity with form, yantra, symbol, etc represents only an outward manifestation of the mind, an “external” worship and distracts from the real, Divine consciousness, residing in our hearts. I seemed to be happy co existing with both forms of worship, mainly because I couldn’t get rid of all the deeply ingrained habits of “saguna” (external) devotion or “Bhakthi” margam.

I drew the Sri Chakra very quickly that day, listening to Lalitha Sahasranama, Kadgamala stotram and Lalitha Trisathi. As soon as I finished the pencil sketch, I heard a child’s voice . This was Sri Bala saying “Why have you forgotten me? You have to draw my picture too”! Without hesitation, I took out a fresh sheet of paper and drew the portrait of this divine child seated on a lotus.

A few days later, both images had been painted and I felt my task was finished. Little did I know that it had just begun!

CHAPTER TWO.




During the month of February, I was receiving continuous inner messages to carry on with the task of drawing divine images. I started off with Lord Murugan accompanied by his consorts Valli and Deivyanai and as soon as this pencil sketch was finished, I got the command to draw a portrait of Mahaa Ganapathi with ten hands. This was followed by drawings of Lord Shiva, Vishnu, Goddess Lakshmi, Saraswathi, Bhuvaneshwari and Hanuman.

I felt that there was some inner urgency to get these portraits finished quickly. I completed the pencil sketches in quick succession . However, when it came to painting these sketches, it seemed there was a pre determined order in which this should be done. For example, it was not a mere coincidence that the Pillayar painting was completed on Angaraka Chaturthi in March ( Chaturthi falling on a Tuesday is auspicious). The portrait of Lord Shiva was completed on Maha Shivarathri, also in the month of March, while the drawing of Lord Murugan seemed to be timed for Panguni Uthiram ( the day he wedded the divine damsel Deivyanai).
During the period of Vasantha Navarathri in April,2011, a phase devoted to the worship of the Divine Mother, I completed the portraits of Goddess Lakshmi, Saraswathi and Bhuvaneshwari. These were followed by drawings of Lord Vishnu and Hanuman.

An interesting incident occurred when I got the command to do the eleventh and final portrait. It seemed that Swami Sai Baba was asking me to do a portrait of himself. I asked him mentally “ I’ve already drawn a portrait of you. Why do you want me to do another one?” I received no response. However, when I took out a fresh sheet of paper and started to draw, I got a very clear command from Swami. “Don’t draw my image. Do a portrayal of Lord Krishna, instead”.

While the pencil sketch of Lord Krishna was finished at the end of March, the day I started to paint Swami as Lord Krishna coincided with his funeral on April, 25th, 2011.

I was completely immersed in the task of my paintings during the months of March and April, 2011. Each divine image was a labour of immense love and I sat for hours on end, completely engrossed in the act of painting. Thoughts, feelings, and physical activity seemed to merge and melt seamlessly into each canvas.

Since I was devoting a vast chunk of my time carrying out the art work, I wasn’t able to spend too much time doing the meditation suggested by the Siddhar. However, most evenings, I would find some quiet time for meditation.

Yet, it was soon obvious to me that events were proceeding according to a divine Master plan. It was during the period I was busying myself with the paintings, certain physical experiences were planned for me at well-timed intervals. One early morning in February, 2011, I had my first taste of this.

I was lying in bed, not quite fully awake when I heard a noise. It sounded like a soft thud as if someone had just got into bed beside me. I was immediately alarmed since there is no one else in the apartment except myself. However hard I tried to open my eyes, I couldn’t do so. Then I heard another sound as if this person(?) jumped off the bed and onto the wooden floor. I could hear distinct patter of footsteps on the parquet floor as if a child(?) was running up and down the passageway leading from the bedroom to the kitchen.

Once again, I tried to open my eyes, but they seemed glued shut. I was getting really concerned and a bit fearful of what was going on. Then suddenly, I felt a small hand touching my face. A thrill of excitement went down my spine and my body was shaking with anticipation. This was an unmistakable, physical sensation. I could still not open my eyes, but couldn’t care anymore. In a trembling voice, I asked “ Is this you, Bala? Are you here?”

I got no response. Yet the next instant I could feel a very small, tender hand touch my cheek, and then move upwards to stroke my hair, almost with motherly love. My joy knew no bounds. There was no fear anymore. I was enjoying the physical presence of the Divine Mother in the form of a small child.

No words were spoken, and in that moment of complete silence, my eyes brimming with tears, I said “Bala, please never let go of me”.

I felt the hand of a child clasp my right hand and hold it very lovingly. I pleaded, “ Please Bala never, ever let go of me. You must stay with me at all times”.
The next moment, to my amazement, I felt two tiny hands holding onto my right hand, as if giving me a silent assurance.

My face was streaming with tears and my voice completely choked with emotion. However, I remembered that little Bala does not like anyone to cry. Instantly, I said “ Bala, please forgive me for crying. I am so happy you came to me”.
Although I could still not open my eyes, I heard an inner voice telling me “ You will not be able to withstand the strength and force of the Divine Glow”.
A few moments later, I woke up. It was 6 a.m. in the morning. I glanced at the space next to me on the bed. I could see that the blanket was carefully turned over as if someone sleeping beside me had woken up and tossed the covers back. A tiny indent on the pillow next to me and the fact it was placed in a different angle, were all the reminders I had of this extraordinary encounter.

This episode occurred right after my paintings of Sri Chakra and Sri Bala were finished.

The Sri Chakra symbolizes the highest aspect of self-realisation, pointing to “oneness” with the Divine principle, while Sri Bala Tripurasundari represents the divine force present during the three stages of waking, sleeping and dreaming states, including the Fourth and important state of Turiya, or the condition of “Sleepless Sleep”.

I began to feel that my art work was leading me to experience in a very tangible manner, the truth expounded by the Siddhar that “God is within You”. Moreover, I was starting to realize there was a deeper significance in the order in which the paintings “happened”.


CHAPTER THREE.





During the first half of March, I was working on the paintings of Lord Ganesha, Lord Murugan and Lord Shiva. It was at this juncture that I experienced yet another intense vision.

On the first day of the Tamil month of “Panguni”( mid-March—mid April), I had another amazing encounter with a Divine being.

I was once again lying in bed in a semi conscious state. It was nearing 6 a.m. and definitely time to get up . However, all of a sudden I felt a tremor running through my body. The next moment I seemed to be pulled back into a deeper state of conscious awareness. At first, my eyes were closed. I could hear the bed creak as someone small and light “jumped” on to it. I tried opening my eyes and this time, I could open them partially. However, turning onto my left side in the bed, I felt an electric current surge through my spine. I could make out the blurred outline of a small figure lying in the bed right next to me. This child was dressed in a white frock or shroud and could not have been more than four years old. My hands seemed to be holding on to some part of this child’s(?) body . I strained my eyes really hard through what seemed like a fine veil covering it. Why, I was holding the lotus like, tender feet of this divine being in the cupped palm of my hands!!

I was completely overcome with emotion. I started singing songs on Sri Bala, I asked her repeatedly to never leave me and to remove all negative qualities from me. I said “ Please Bala make me a better person”. I seemed to be repeating this over and over again. This conversation with Bala continued for sometime as I carried on singing her songs and enjoying the physical sensation of holding on to her small, tiny feet.

Suddenly, near my left ear I could hear a sigh. I stopped talking and listened intently. I could hear very clearly and distinctly the small intake and exhalation of breath. It sounded similar to the gentle, even breathing of a sleeping child on the bed next to me. In great wonder and amazement, my hands let go of this child’s feet and soon I was clasping both her hands and praying to Bala to stay beside me forever. I said “ I don’t want anything else in the world but your presence beside me”.

The sound of breathing stopped abruptly and the vision was gone. I opened my eyes to see the bedside clock . It was 7 a.m.

The rest of that day passed by quickly. I was in a delirious state and could not focus on my paintings at all. However, one fact leaped out at me. I reflected on the symbolism of the paintings just completed.

Lord Pillayar, was the natural and auspicious start, the ruler of the Mooladhara Chakra. No doubt he had started the process of my spiritual advancement. The portrait of Lord Shiva in deep meditation that was completed on Shivarathri seemed to re confirm the Siddhar’s advice on paying attention to both the breathing technique as well as doing mantra japam, contemplating on the oneness with Lord. Finally, the image of Lord Murugan, symbolized the deepest truth that the true Guru resides only in the “cave” of your own heart.

The exhilarating vision and my repeated requests for this divine form to stay with me indicated nothing more than a continuation of the Supreme truth revealed in my paintings! Also, the sequence in which the paintings were completed seemed to be pre determined as if to lead me slowly and surely into a deeper part of myself, i.e. the realization of my own Divine nature.


CHAPTER FOUR.







Another physical experience occurred right after I had completed the image of Lord Vishnu representing the all pervading Cosmic Force.

Once again, one morning as I was in between sleeping and waking states, I felt a tremor starting in the big toe of my right leg. Having gone through this experience before, I realized another surge of the Divine Life-force was about to enter my body. Within seconds a huge bolt of electricity shot through my entire body spreading like lightning from the toes to the top of my head. I was spinning around on the bed and the bed itself seemed to be rocking from side to side. I remember chanting the name “Bala, Bala”, several times mentally, since a small element of fear started to creep in. My body seemed to be on fire and this wasn’t a pleasant physical sensation.

I tried to summon strength to hoist my body on to the pillows and sit up. However even as my head moved forward and I tried to draw in my legs and push my back against the headboard, I found my spine “melting” away. It felt as though my spinal column was an elastic band that had suddenly snapped. Then, my ears throbbed painfully and I thought my ear drums were going to burst. My entire forehead seemed to be filled with electric sparks and I could feel tension building up in the spot between my eyes. And then, when I felt my entire body was going to “burst open”, I suddenly felt “myself(?) floating out of the physical shell.

I simply couldn’t see or feel my physical frame anymore!

Next, I found myself in the middle of a huge ocean. I could “hear” the roar of the gigantic waves. It felt I was part of this ocean; in fact “I” “WAS” the ocean. I could hear the howling of the wind and at the same time had the sensation of being the wind. In other words I felt as though I was somehow mixed up with or part of these mighty elements. My ears(?) started to throb again and finally ruptured. Now, I could “hear” strange music and chantings. I distinctly caught the sound of stringed instruments, particularly, the Veena.

I’m not sure how long this continued. Finally, I got the sensation of falling down. I thought I was going to hit the wooden floor near my bed and braced myself for it. Yet, the next moment, I found myself lying on the soft mattress.

I noticed it was about 7 a.m. and this experience probably lasted an hour.

It seemed that Lord Vishnu, symbolizing all the elements and this entire Universe had given me a small glimpse of his Divine self within me!

The three glowing images of Goddesses Lakshmi, Saraswathi and the ruler of the Universe, Bhuvaneshwari were completed in quick succession during a very auspicious phase. I was listening non stop to the sacred verses of Devi Mahatmyam, Lakshmi Sahasranamam, Lakshmi Narayana Hrudayam, Shyamala Dandakam and other holy chants during this entire period.

As if they were showering blessings on me, these three divine deities who represent the power of thought, action and wisdom, graced me with another incredible experience.

One morning, I had an intense dream. I found myself inside the RajaRajeshwari temple in Rochester, N.Y. Sri Haran Aiya was beside me and I was being allowed to perform puja to Devi and place flowers on her. Then, at the end, Haran Aiya got up and I could see very clearly the forms of both my guru, Shanthananda Swamigal and Balu Swamy ( Siddhar), standing right next to him or perhaps "within" him (?).
Once more, after a while, we started to do puja and this time, I seemed to be listening to Hanuman Chalisa. Aiya was still beside me. I can't remember whether he placed his hand on my head. However, I saw two bright red flashes in my AJNA chakra ( forehead--in between eyes) and then a bolt of electricity passed through me. I seemed to be floating out of my body towards the face of Devi.

I woke up, filled with some kind of strange energy. That same night/ early morning next day, another strange incident occurred.

I’ve reproduced below a letter I wrote to a website contact in Madurai, India within a few hours of this intense, physical event. I’m not sure why I wrote to this person. At the time I tapped out this letter, the electric energy was still pulsating through my body.

“In the early hours of this morning, I went through three separate and extraordinary experiences. Each time, it felt like a 1,000 volt charge was running through my body. The area of my entire forehead was throbbing. I can still feel ( as I write) the electrical impulses running from side to side in between my eyebrows. Then, I could feel an intense pressure building up inside my forehead, as if it might burst and that exploding point, I could see two bright, red flashes of light. The first time this happened, I could sense and see I'm in India, in my mother's house. I'm thinking " Hey, whats going on? I should ask Haran Aiya about this". Then, I'm travelling somewhere else and witnessing a lot of varied scenes. Some children playing, crying; people in their homes-- domestic life, in what seems to be in English- speaking countries in the world.

Then, this sensation dies down. Very soon, almost like a volcano starting up again, the same bolt of electricity starts running through my body starting from the right toe. This time, I can hear a lot of music, my ears are painful and throbbing, like they might burst any minute too. I can hear rock music, English songs, etc and I'm thinking " Why can't I see at least some deities, Lord Murugan or something. This is so totally useless ".

Third time, this same energy / Kundalini shoots through. I have absolutely no control over my physical body whatsoever. I cannot stop this process by opening my eyes because the force is too great. So, I'm telling myself (?) to just relax and go with the flow. This time, I'm up in the sky, like a satellite camera looking down on the world. I can see the coastline of Asia and then, the tectonic plates moving apart and coming together causing huge tsunami waves. I realise I'm witnessing something perhaps in Japan.

It took me a long time to get out of bed this morning. It is past 11 a.m. and I'm tapping this letter out in a frenzy, almost as if I want to keep a record of these events. I don't know why I chose to write to you. I just felt I had to.

I felt totally drained of energy, getting out of bed in the morning and had to force myself to stand up and move to the bathroom. My body was shivering until 9 a.m. I am perfectly ok right now.

While these types of experiences have occured before- Remember, I had a recent experience of hearing and feeling Bala as a young child running up and down the apt; also another time when I couldn't feel my backbone and could hear the roar of the ocean, the howling of the wind, almost as if I'm part of the Universe?

Well, this time, the only difference is I can "see" many vignettes/ scenes from around the world plus hear music more clearly. The feeling of looking down on earth was truly awesome.

I realise that the sixth chakra " Ajna" is opening and this is the seat of psychic power and intuition.”


CHAPTER FIVE.





I was working on the portrait of Hanuman and realized that this powerful Monkey God symbolizing physical and mental strength was playing some “tricks” on me. All the paintings I worked on until then were drawn on the same size of card, measuring roughly 2 feet by 2 ½ feet in dimension. However, when I started to draw the figure of Hanuman, listening to the hymn “Hanuman Chalisa”, he sent me an immediate command . He said “ Don’t listen to my sacred hymn. Instead, listen to the holy verses extolling Lord Rama”. This is exactly what I did and even as I drew Hanuman’s face, it seemed to grow bigger and bigger. His eyes seemed to glow with devotion and his smile reflected the divine bliss of his love for Lord Rama. I soon realized, I would have to make the canvas bigger to accommodate the rest of his body. So, I attached sheets of card all around until this figure could be finished to perfection.

Also, when I started to paint this image, I was initially not too sure how I would manage to do this. I felt my drawing was all wrong. I looked at the pencil sketch and was very dissatisfied with “my” portrayal. I had a “mental block” and couldn’t proceed further.

Yet, it seemed that the Lord wanted me to carry on with my task. With intense devotion and complete “surrender” to the Lord I started this painting. I told him “ You know I’m not an artist and I’m not particularly worried if this picture of you has flaws in it. All I do know for certain is that I surrender to your strength and wisdom. Please guide me”.

Lord Hanuman symbolizes the “Sushumna Nadi” or the central channel in the spinal cord through which the divine life-force (Kundalini) makes its way up to the Sahasrara Chakra at the crown of the body. The Lord represents wisdom of self realization and the importance of complete surrender to attain oneness with the God residing in the heart.

I finally completed the portrait of Hanuman and stepped back to view it. What I considered as impossible to achieve had been accomplished with the Lord’s help and guidance.

Finally, I started work on the enchanting form of Lord Krishna. I enjoyed every single moment working on this particular portrait. I was listening to the sacred verses from Bhagavatham describing Krishna’s advent into the world. I reveled in the description of his beautiful form as a small child and felt I was witnessing the many miracles he performed as a cowherd.

By the time I completed the picture of Lord Krishna playing his golden flute, standing in a meadow amidst flowering shrubs and trees, I was filled with an overwhelming emotion of Love and Happiness. For a long time, I “danced” with this portrait in my hands, not feeling “silly” in the least bit. And the Lord seemed to be enjoying all this attention too! I was totally “one” with this “physical” representation of the Lord who stands as an eternal symbol of “Paramananda” or eternal bliss.

This final and eleventh portrait brought upon another intense and physical experience.





On Amavasai (new moon ), May 2nd, 2011, the day began normally. However, I was feeling a bit drained out and restless. I thought I would listen to some of Sri Bala’s songs. I selected a CD and lay down on the living room sofa. I closed my eyes and started listening to the melodious songs. A bright glow appeared in between my eyebrows and then various colors seemed to dance and melt away. As I was drifting away into a deeper state, I felt the physical sensation of a tiny spoon being pressed against my lips. Instinctively, I swallowed the contents without tasting it. This physical motion of swallowing brought me out of my meditation. I half opened my eyes, just in time to get a vision of a child dressed in a pink frock quickly vanishing out of sight.


Almost simultaneously, I got an inner message to call Siddhar, Sri Balu Swamy. Without hesitation, I picked up the phone and dialed the number of his devotee Shanmugam. Since Swami does not carry a cell phone, it is customary to reach him by contacting some of his followers. However, I got the message that the Siddhar was keeping poor health . I requested Shanmugam to give me a missed call, when the Siddhar was free since I had to talk to him. The latter promised to do so.

That evening, I was listening to the beautiful verses from Kali Sahasranama and prayed for a dear friend who had requested me to do so. I sincerely requested Kali to help all her children and provide proper guidance.

That night, around 1 a.m. the phone rang. It was Shanmugam saying that the Siddhar would talk to me and could I call back. I did so and was soon chatting to Sri Balu Swamy. I described many of my recent experiences and requested his advice. In particular I sought answers to three questions. First, “What was the reason for these physical and intense experiences. Would they stop? If so, am I proceeding on the correct path? Second, What does the process of Karma cleansing involve and finally, the astral world I seemed to visit, the scenes I saw and the music I heard, were these in the realm of “Turiya” or Fourth dimension”?

Balu Swamy replied that I was indeed on the path of spiritual advancement guided by the Divine Lord residing within me. He went on to say that the scenes I witnessed and music I heard were left over remnants from previous births and I shouldn’t worry about this. This was part of the Karma cleansing process that had already started. These incidents might stop when the physical body has been transformed or re shaped in a manner of speaking so that the body is ready to receive the Divine Grace. In other words, when the highest state is reached, You become God, there is no difference. You are in God and He is in you. In the Fourth dimension, astral travel is possible, and it is possible to see the forms of Siddhars , deities like Bala, and other Holy personalities from the past. However, I was cautioned not to attach too much importance to any of these occurrences, and also not pay too much attention to the intuitive or other siddhis (powers) caused by the opening of the Ajna Chakra.

I related to the Siddhar that these experiences seemed to be occurring during a period of my “external” worship of various deities in the form of paintings. Was there any reason for this coincidence?

Balu Swamy laughed and asked me “ You say you have drawn images of Krishna and Pillayar. How do you know what their forms really look like? The obvious answer is that our minds are influenced from an early age about the physical characteristics of either the elephant-faced God or the handsome, lover, Krishna. However, all these deities are merely symbolic representations of a deeper concept.”

I remembered with a jolt that I had written the same words in the foreword to my spiritual diary over 7 years ago. I’d written that Goddess Saraswathi teaches us the value of wisdom, Lakshmi makes us respect wealth. Kali makes us get over jealousy, envy, hatred and greed, and so on. It seemed I was going in a circle and had just returned to the starting point.

Finally, Balu Swamy said “ I’m so happy to see that you are proceeding in the correct path. Your inner Divinity will take care of you. Just keep repeating the mantra I gave you at all times”.

I couldn’t go back to sleep that night. I closed my eyes and lay on my bed, mentally chanting the mantra. At 5 a.m. I got a sudden message. “ Remove that laptop computer beside you on the bed and place it on the desk in the far corner of the room”.
I did so, without knowing the reason for this strange command. I went back to bed thinking I would get up at 6 a.m. Just as I was going to rise, I felt once more, the tell tale signal of electric current starting to flow upwards from my right toe.

What happened next caught me totally off guard. Although I had experienced energy flowing through my body many, many times, this time it was far more intense and concentrated.

I was overwhelmed by continuous waves of great power coursing through my body for almost an hour. It felt as if every organ in my body was getting scorched by the intense heat. The entire lower part of my body seemed to be twisting out of shape. I was assuming weird postures that looked like Yoga Asanas. There was tremendous heat applied to the soles of my feet as though I was walking on fire. At one point the pain was so intense, I cried out aloud. I could see the skin of my feet hanging like tough leather beneath the soles, while the feet turned 180 degrees inward. To my horror, I could see the flesh and blood inside!!

The toes of my feet seemed to contort themselves in various angles. The swift moving electric currents reached my heart area and I thought I was going to die. Huge jolts of high voltage were reshaping the muscles in the entire body including the heart. Meanwhile, there was a build up of pressure in my forehead. Electrical impulses were moving swiftly from side to side until they burst through.

Then, I started seeing various scenes, like on TV, and the pictures were crystal clear. I seemed to be in a bowling alley, then eating in a restaurant. Looking around, I spotted a sign that said I was in California. The scene changed, I was in a house; there were some children and it looked like I was still living in U.S.A. The scene changed once more and I found myself in a lovely house filled with servants waiting on me. When I say “I” was in all the scenes, this was like an onlooker. I felt I was viewing scenes from previous lives and in all of them I wasn’t born as an Indian. Instead, I was a white woman living in the U.S.
While my mind was still the digesting all these developments, there was another sharp bolt of electricity and I found my body rising completely off the bed. I was aware of floating with my body, or indeed levitating. I seemed to float effortlessly in and out of the two rooms of my small apartment. I enjoyed this sensation immensely and felt no pain even when my elbows hit sharp corners. Finally, I felt the show was coming to an end. I seemed to be swooping in to crash on the floor.

However, to my relief, I found myself on the bed.
It was 7 a.m. Once again, this episode had lasted one hour.

I remembered what the Siddhar said. “ Don’t be afraid of these out of body experiences or physically intense experiences. They are a natural process of cleansing your body so you can become fit for receiving Divine force. In fact You will become That Cosmic Force”.

CONCLUSION:
During the past four months, I’ve had the splendid opportunity to revisit many of the old notions and ideas I’ve had about spirituality, religion, discovering the true nature of the self and the concept of the soul’s ultimate union with God.
My experiences lead me to state with absolute conviction that “God is not outside oneself”. “You are that Divine Force”. You “become” that sacred energy through a series of transformations that occur at the gross, body level as well as at the subtler levels of the mind and intellect.

Once the mind and intellect are linked in the realization of this great truth, a personality change is brought about. It is impossible to go back to the “old” personality. When the Karma cleansing process is finished, all attachments, fear and a wavering mind are totally banished. All the negative qualities that block spiritual growth are shattered into pieces. What is left is a brand new and “cleaner You”, housed inside a physical frame that has also been re modified to suit you. In this body, the Divine glow will be brighter compared to those who have not yet affected this transformation.

Just as a dirty mirror cannot provide a clear reflection, so too, unless the accumulated layers of dirt in the form of bad habits, negative qualities and karmas are gotten rid off, the in-dwelling divine force cannot shine through brightly. Once the concept of “You are That Divine Force” can be understood, this cognitive change brings about a personality change that leads to the acceptance of all human beings as “God” and indeed all creatures , inanimate objects, nature and this cosmos as “being in and part of God”. There is no need for external worship in the form of idols, shapes, yantras, etc. The leap from “saguna” ( with form and attributes) to “Nirguna (formless) is accomplished.

Very early on in my spiritual diary, I have written the above statements.
However,at that time this was just a theoretical knowledge gained from absorbing Swami Paramarthananda’s lectures on the Upanishads. Although I understood the Vedantic concept of Advaita at an intellectual level, the opportunity of “physically” experiencing it did not happen until the present time.
What I didn’t understand early on was the fact that a “physical” transformation is the crucial factor to ignite and bring about this final conversion. It is also essential to have the guidance of a proper Guru. In my case, I feel Sri Bala’s grace pointed me in the direction of Sri Balu Swamy. No doubt the initiation and advice he gave me sorted out many blocks and cleared the path for me. Yet, his parting words to me a few days ago were “ You don’t need anyone’s help. That divine force inside you is the Guru”.

No doubt external forms of worship, prayers, rituals, etc provide a solid foundation from which to ascend the spiritual ladder. Yet, unless this too is “given up” along with dependence on the “Guru”, the final leap to God realization can never happen.

A few days after I wrote this, I was assailed by constant reminders to do a portrait of Goddess Karumariamman. At first, I tried to ignore these suggestions but soon discovered they would not go away. So, I finished this glowing image of the Goddess accompanied by the hymns of the powerful Devi Mahatmyam.




There is no doubt these images will bless and heal. At least, that is what I sincerely pray.

God Bless
Sri Bala Charanam.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Introduction: In Search of a Siddhar, an ancient Shiva Temple and some Divine experiences at Sri Bala Peetam.

Sri Bala Charanam November 6th, 2010
Sri Guruve Charanam.


IN SEARCH OF A SIDDHAR, AN ANCIENT SHIVA TEMPLE AND SOME DIVINE EXPERIENCES AT SRI BALA PEETAM.

INTRODUCTION.


I was in Chennai during the auspicious period of Navarathri in October 2010. Right from the start it seemed as if a tightly packed schedule of events had been put in place by a divine master plan.

I shall narrate some of the highlights of this trip that started off with my research into understanding some of the inscrutable poetry of Karuvur Siddhar!

In the final week of August, I came across an audio rendering of Karuvur Siddhar’s “Puja vidhi” ( method of worship), a set of thirty verses written by this savant over a thousand years ago. This was read out by Sri Baba.G in a CD entitled “Guruve Charanam”.

It is widely believed that Siddhars are enlightened souls. They had complete mastery over their senses and were endowed with many supernatural powers. They were experts in the field of alchemy, medicine, philosophy and literature. In fact, there is a saying that while a devotee seeks to have a glimpse of God, Siddhars have actually experienced God and attempted to spread this knowledge to everyone. However, the method they chose to reveal this wisdom was through poetry. The language they employed , albeit Tamil, is very mysterious and difficult to understand since a surface reading or literal translation of a Siddhar’s poem provides a completely different meaning and misses the true intent.

Sri Bala Peetam is considered to be a “Siddhar Peetam”. In fact, Sri Baba.G maintains that his father, Sri Ezhilmani is a reincarnation of “Karuvur Siddhar”. This information was passed on by Sri Bala to him many years ago.

So, on Friday, August 29th, 2010, I was listening to Baba.G recite the 30 verses on “Puja Vidhi” ( method of doing Puja) written many centuries ago by Karuvur Siddhar. There are many references in these verses to a young girl of ten years who has come to reside in the central hall of a house located in the middle of a village. It is revealed this child is veritably the Supreme Goddess whom all other deities worship. Furthermore, there is a prediction this house will become famous worldwide. A house, where miracles would take place. A house, where a poet lives pouring forth divine songs!

The first few lines of Verse 1 goes as follows:

Aadhiyandam Vaalai avaL irunda VeedE
Aacharyam metha metha adhudhaan Paaru
SOdiyanda Nadu Veedu Peeda Maagi
Sogusu pera veeRirundaaL thurai peN AathaaL

Translated literally, this means:

“A house where a young damsel (having no birth or death) lives
Observe astonishing events taking place here!
That radiant house located in the middle (of the village), became a Peetam
And here, She sits majestically, this little girl!”

Also, In Verse 25, every line ends in the word “Veedu” meaning “House”, as if to reinforce to the reader that Sri Bala is indeed the main resident of this house!


Sookshmam IvaL Vaasamadhu Nilaitha Veedu
SolluthaRkE Engumaai niRaindha Veedu
DEsamadhil pOi viLangum Indha Veedu
Siddhaanda Sidhar avar ThEdum Veedu
Osai MaNi Pooramathil Uthikkum Veedu
OhO HO AdhisayangaL uLLA Veedu
Aasu Kavi Madhuramadhu pozhiyum Veedu
Avan aRuLum koodi viLaiyaadum veedE!

A rough translation:

A house where this enigmatic girl is firmly established
A house that is fully and widely discussed
A house that will become famous in the country
A house greatly sought after by renowned Siddhars
A house that came into existence ringing in the bell of the constellation “Pooram”.
A house that is full of so (Oho!!) many surprises!
A house where a poet showers sweet songs
A house where His grace merges playfully too!

Pooram is the birth star of Sri Bala and the reference to “His Grace” in the last line probably indicates Lord Shiva.


I sat spellbound listening to Sri Baba.G recite these 30 verses. I listened to them over and over again, hoping to understand their inner significance. However, it seemed impossible to crack the meaning of the cryptic words in the remaining verses. In desperation, I called Sri Ezhilmani and asked him to make sense of this piece of work. He replied I should just place my full belief in Bala and she would soon reveal the truth. However, he did inform that the reference to “Veedu” or “house” should not be taken literally, but instead refers to the main chakras within the human body.

This is true! A literal translation of Siddhar’s poetry cannot provide a full explanation of the underlying significance or philosophy. These mystics believed that the Divine being was “housed” in all mortals and most of their writings revealed this truth and provided ways and methods to tap this divine energy within!

For the next few days, I trawled the internet searching for material that would throw more light on Karuvur Siddhar. However, information was sparse and most sites seemed to have copied off each other. I looked up the details regarding to Karur Temple, in TamilNadu, where this Siddhar is supposed to have merged with Lord Shiva. In fact, the Shivalingam in the main sanctum is supposed to have tilted to one side so as to accommodate the “entry” of the Siddhar!

I made a mental note to visit this temple during my forthcoming visit to India.

For the next few days, I read the Siddhar’s verses every morning and prayed fervently to Bala. By this time my plans were in place to visit Chennai in the third week of September and stay on until mid-October. I was looking forward to being with Sri Bala during Navarathri.

A few days prior to my departure, while searching for information relating to temples in the vicinity of Chennai, I came across a blog relating to an ancient Shiva temple that has been recently discovered in a small village called Neyveli near Chennai.

However, it was the entry date of this blog that caught my attention.

http://shanthiraju.wordpress.com/2010/04/22/agneeswarar-neyveli/

It was written on the 22nd day of the Fourth month in the year!

Since the Number 4 is auspicious as far as Sri Bala is concerned, I immediately started to read Mr. Raju’s interesting story about Lord Agneeshwarar’s temple.

This is a gripping tale relating to the discovery of an ancient Shiva temple set amidst paddy fields near the town of Tiruvallur ( two hours from Chennai) and how certain miraculous events have revealed beyond a shadow of a doubt that it is in fact a place where Siddhars and holy sages have worshipped the Lord. The story goes on to explain that this temple is now in the capable hands of a dedicated team of people who are intent on renovating the premises.

I read the anecdote with great interest and it was no great surprise to learn that KARUVUR Siddhar is associated with this temple as is another famous Avadootha saint, Sri Sadashiva Brahmendrar.
It was as though I was meant to stumble on this story on that day!

While the 30 verses written by Karuvurar provided the starting point of my investigation, I came to know that Sadashiva Brahmendrar was in fact the Aadhi (principle) guru of my own very revered Guru, Sri Shanthananda Swamigal of Pudukkottai.

Sri Shanthananda Swamigal also belonged to the Avadootha sect. His guru was Sri Svayamprakasha Swamigal who attained Samadhi at Sendamangalam. In turn, Sri Judge Swamigal of Pudukottai was the mentor for Svayamprakasha Swamigal and none other than the most venerable Sri Sadashiva Brahmendrar of Nerur was the Guru of Sri Judge Swamigal!

I felt the invisible hand of my Guru guiding me and blessing me in my investigations.
I decided to add the Neyveli temple to my wish list as well on my fortcoming trip to Chennai. Little did I know how events would actually turn out!!

Chapter One: A wooden swing for Sri Bala Peetam.


CHAPTER ONE.

A WOODEN SWING FOR SRI BALA PEETAM.




I reached Chennai on September 19th, and proceeded directly to Sri Bala Peetam. I felt incredibly happy to get this divine child’s blessings after nearly 7 months. At the Peetam, I purchased the latest CD of “Guruve Charanam”, released for the month of September, 2010.

The following night something strange happened. I couldn’t go to sleep and decided to listen to Baba.G’s CD. Although it was a Monday and Bala devotees are expected to listen to audio lecture by Baba.G only every Friday , I decided to break the rule just once! In this week’s talk, Baba.G was discussing the background episodes associated with every song he composed. This struck a chord in my mind since each one of my paintings too has been inspired by various events!

That day’s topic focused on the “Oonjal” (Swing) song rendered by Sri Madhu and one of my firm favorites! Baba.G spoke about a swing in his ancestral home and the fond memories he had of playing on it as a child. He went on to discuss how he had mentally pictured Sri Bala rocking gently to and fro on a swing while composing the “Oonjal” song. Indeed, the tempo of the song is designed to resemble the slow motion of a swing! I listened to this song, eyes closed imagining little Bala , smiling happily, seated on a decorated swing. Baba.G ended his speech remarking that there is no swing in Nemili but perhaps soon, they would acquire one!

All of a sudden and without warning, a strong wave of emotion hit me and I was totally taken aback. I felt like a spectator witnessing an abnormal event!

All I remember was the certain feeling: that Sri Bala requires a grand swing for her house in Nemili and is asking me for it! I cried for a long time that night, out of sheer happiness.
Early the following morning I called Baba.G. Yet, when he answered the phone, I found myself choking with tears. In fact Baba.G asked me “ Amma, what is wrong? Has something upset you?”

It took a few minutes for me to compose myself and inform him that on the contrary, I was crying in happiness because Sri Bala had given her consent for me to bring in a swing for her Peetam.

Baba.g’s reply was even more amazing. He said “ When I recorded that CD, a few weeks ago, Bala told me straightaway that you were the designated person who would get it for the Peetam”.

Thus started my astonishing sojourn in Chennai in September, 2010.

I searched various shops in Chennai to get the “right” swing for Sri Bala. I was looking for a long wooden plank that could be hung from the ceiling supported by ornamental, brass chains. However, I couldn’t spot something satisfactory and placing an order meant having to wait at least for 4 to 5 weeks.


At the end of two days of futile search, I stepped inside what I thought to myself was the final shop. “If nothing is available here, then I shall just place an order and wait for it”, I thought to myself.
I asked the shop assistant to show me some models of swings that could be suspended from the ceiling. However, the rather bored and unhelpful sales girl replied that there were none in stock and instead brought out a fat order-catalogue. I sighed wearily and flipped the pages of the book.
After a few minutes, finding none that I liked, I mentally beseeched Bala , asking her why she was playing games with me. Then, I turned around to exit the shop.

And there it was !!!!

Right in front of me stood a magnificent, ornate wooden swing with its own integral stand. There were two dancing peacocks on the back rest of the seat and joyous elephants raising their trunks in blessing in all four corners of the supporting poles!

I could not conceal my excitement. I asked the sales girl why she hadn’t shown me this model before. Her reply “ I thought you were only interested in simple, wooden planks and not in such an ornate swing that comes with a stand.”

Just as I stood hesitating, the faint strains of a familiar song came wafting through the stereo system in the shop. It was “ Chinnan chiru Kiliye”, one of Sri Bala’s favourite songs !!
My mind was made up and the swing was quickly purchased. The day was September 22nd!

I requested the shop to deliver the swing to Nemili on Friday, September, 24th, 2010. There was a special reason for choosing Friday. On the day Baba.G’s speech might be heard by Bala devotees, the swing he had reminisced about would have already reached Bala Peetam!

Thus, without any fanfare, on a very quiet Friday evening, I walked into Sri Bala Peetam carrying a very precious gift. Sri Ezhilmani Mama placed Kumkumam on the wooden back rest of the swing and a small photo of Sri Bala was placed on the seat. Listening to the melodious “Oonjal” song, I sat for a long time in front of little Bala as she rocked to and fro, on this magnificent wooden swing decorated with peacocks and elephants that seemed even more happy now that Bala was seated in their midst!!

Chapter Two: A Visit to Lord Agneeshwarar's Temple.

CHAPTER TWO.

A VISIT TO LORD AGNEESHWARAR’S TEMPLE.

On the morning of Thursday, September, 23rd a very strong mental suggestion urged me to visit the ancient Shiva temple I had read about in Mr. Raju’s blog , near the village of Neyveli.

The history of Lord Agneeshwarar’s temple , written up by Mr. Raju and (later) told to me by Mr. Ramamurthy, is as follows.

Several years ago two youths from Chennai were visiting Lord Oondreswarar’s temple in the vicinity of the Poondy reservoir. Following the darshan of the Lord, they were poised to leave the temple, when all of a sudden a young boy appeared and urged them “don’t forget to pay respect to Lord Shiva in the village of Neyveli ”. The young lad “disappeared” before the astonished eyes of the boys. Later, these two young men , with the help of local villagers discovered a rare and beautiful Shiva Lingam in the middle of the paddy fields surrounding Neyveli, under a heap of thorny bushes favoured by snakes.

Back in Chennai, the two boys contacted Mr. Ramamurthi, a veteran in the field of temple restoration for several decades. Mr Ramamurthy is well known and respected in spiritual circles for being actively involved in identifying, rebuilding and renovating ancient places of worship throughout Tamil Nadu.

Intrigued by the story, Mr Ramamurthy visited this site and after experiencing several miraculous events and following consultations with astrologers, he obtained divine order to go ahead with the rebuilding of this temple.
The whole story is available at Mr Raju’s blog site, including contact details and phone numbers for those who are interested to get involved in this project!

In any case, I have given below an account of my experiences after visiting this temple.

On September 23rd, 2010 , I set off in the car from Chennai around 8 a.m. It was just before 11 a.m when we finally found the single track road leading up to the temple. A small shrine to the village deity, Ettai Amman marked the beginning of this bumpy road that cut right through the green paddy fields. In the distance I could see the white and red stripes on the compound wall that encircled the area where the temple was located.

Here is a video of the approach to the temple: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fDBocLEyTAQ

I noticed a group of dogs sleeping in front of the small shrine to the village deity. Awakened by the sound of the approaching car, they quickly got up and started to pursue the car up to the main gate of the temple.

I could see that work had already commenced on the restoration of the temple. However, no one seemed to be around when I arrived.

The place exuded peace and calm. My driver and I opened the entrance gate and stepped inside . The dogs ( about three or four of them) ran past me as if leading the way, urging me to follow them.

They ran in towards a tree that stood right in the middle of the fenced lot. This was a huge, imposing Banyan tree, its knobbly branches spreading in all directions forming a canopy almost like the gigantic hood of a snake!
The dogs circled the foot of the tree and finally reached the place where a large and beautiful Shiva Lingam was situated, under a makeshift thatched shed, right at the base of this venerable tree!

Although I was a bit apprehensive of being attacked by these stray dogs, they didn’t bark or approach me in a menacing manner. Instead, they seemed content to have brought me to their Lord and then disappeared into the distance.

In the brilliance of the midday sun, the Shiva Lingam glistened like polished emerald. I sat down in front of the Lord and closed my eyes. I had read in Mr. Raju’s website that this was a place where Karuvur Siddhar worshipped ( in fact, he still is worshipping) the Lord. I prayed for the Siddhar’s guidance in my spiritual path and started to chant “Om Nama Shivaaya” mentally. Very quickly I found myself slipping into a deeper state of concentration. I could see a bright red glow in between my eyebrows and the glittering tendrils of a gigantic red flower that seemed to open and wave its many petals. Then, a fierce white glow came circling down seeming to disappear deep inside me.

I slowly came out of my meditation and heard bees buzzing around my head. Yet, I could not see them and none came near me. The dogs circled me and the tree a few times and then left me alone in silence. I looked up at the tree. There were many cracks and holes in this ancient tree, orifices in which snakes lived ( I had read about their presence in Mr. Raju’s anecdote). However, that morning everything seemed deceptively peaceful, and I felt a sense of complete harmony with nature and the animals here. There was no sense of fear!

After a while the caretaker of the temple who lived in the nearby village stopped by and upon my request gave me the telephone number and contact details of Mr. Ramamurthy, the man in charge of the temple restoration project.

I called him on his cell phone straight away . After a brief introduction regarding the purpose of my visit and quest in search of Karuvur Siddhar, Mr Ramamurthy asked me about my impression of the spot. I replied “ I feel a lot of vibrations and energy exuding from the tree”. His response was swift “ Of course, this tree is unique. It dates back several thousand years. There have been many occasions when bolts of lightning have struck and rendered it lifeless. Nevertheless, this tree has miraculously survived the ravages of time and is a standing testimony to the authenticity of this temple!” In fact, the Banyan tree has grafted itself on to a Neem tree and both are growing together favourably”

I glanced at the tree once more. Certainly, looking at the thick cover provided by the swirling branches, it was hard to believe this tree had once been a mere, withered stump!

I made an appointment to meet Mr Ramamurthi in his home in Chennai for later that evening to get more information regarding this temple.

I wandered around some of the half constructed shrines for Lord Ganapathi, Murugan and Goddess Lalithambika. However, every few seconds my attention was directed back to the tree. I felt the most overwhelming feature of this location was definitely this mesmerising tree. I felt a thousand eyes were looking at me from inside. I felt a whole universe of deities had made this tree their home. Yet, on the surface, to the naked eye, there was no sign of life.
The atmosphere was soothing and peaceful.

Back in Chennai, later that day, I visited Sri Ramamurthi in his house.
Four fascinating hours sped by very quickly listening to this man narrate his incredible experiences associated with many of his temple renovation projects. A staunch Shaivaite, Mr Ramamurthi is actively involved in restoring many damaged, ancient Shiva temples in various parts of Tamil Nadu back to their original glory. He works closely with the local people living in the villages and imparts to them the importance of temple worship, the significance of rituals and the basic facts of Hindu religion. He is also involved in caring for animals and has set up Go Shaalas (Sanctuaries for cows) to shelter and protect cows that would otherwise have been cruelly slaughtered. Vehemently opposed to the current disturbing trend in India of converting Hindus to Christianity, Mr Ramamurthy canvases far and wide, spreading the values of Hindu Culture, Dharma and the rudimentary principles of our religion to the illiterate villagers who are often held back by superstitious beliefs.

Just as I prepared to take leave of Mr. Ramamurthi that evening, he asked me to step inside his puja room since he wanted me to see a picture of Karuvurar Siddhar given to him by a mystic called Balu Swami living near the temple in Karur. Balu Swamy is believed to be a reincarnation of Karuvurar, by some of the locals in the area. Also, since this Siddhar’s presence is undeniable at Lord Agneeshwarar’s temple, I was intrigued!

This led to yet another interesting story about why Mr Ramamurthi made a visit to Karur Temple and how he met Balu Swamy.

In Mr. Raju’s blog there is an incredible tale regarding the manner in which Sri Ramamurthi obtained Karuvurar Siddhar’s “uthiravu” or “CONSENT” to renovate the Shiva Temple in Neyveli. It had been ordained by Deiva Prasnam ( Divine will) that a Brahmin had to voluntarily approach Ramamurthy on a Monday and ask him to donate a “vastram”, or “veshti” ( Dhothi). If this incident came to pass, it indicated a “go ahead” signal ( from Karuvurar) for the temple project. The Siddhar’s wishes had to be fulfilled to ensure unhindered progress with regard to the restoration of this ancient place of worship.

Realistically, the probability of this event happening is pretty low!

That evening, Mr Ramamurthi narrated to me (once more), his visit to the Jeeva Samadhi of Karurar in the village of Karur. He reached the temple on a Saturday and sat in meditation for nearly 6 hours in front of Karuvur Siddhar’s Samadhi with the hope he would receive a positive signal from the mystic.
However, at the end of a tiring day, he got no response. As he rose to leave, the priest inside the shrine came out holding a sacred “veshti” (garment) that had been placed on the Siddhar’s statue. He offered it to Ramamurthi saying it was “Divine Command”. Although this wasn’t the “prescribed” day of the week ( i.e. Monday),and contrary to his expectations, a Brahmin priest was giving him the Veshti, Mr. Ramamurthy nevertheless, received the offering and returned home to Chennai.

While at this powerful shrine, Mr Ramamurthi observed a beautiful photograph of Karuvur Siddhar and asked the priest where he might obtain a copy. However, the priest replied no copies were available!

Now, the tale becomes more interesting!! On the following Monday, at 9 a.m. in the morning, an old beggar with a cloth bag suspended on his shoulders, rings the doorbell of Mr Ramamurthi’s house in Chennai. To Mr. Ramamurthi’s amazement, the old man says he has travelled from a place far away and is in search of alms to conclude his grand daughter’s wedding. He says “ The advocate’s wife in the house nearby donated a saree. Do you have a “Veshti” ( dhothi) to give away”?

Mr. Ramamurthi must have recounted this incident several times in the past five years. However, I could detect every detail was etched very clearly in his mind. There is absolutely no doubt about the veracity of this story!!

Here was a beggar who voluntarily approached him on a Monday asking for a garment!! Could this be Karuvur Siddhar himself, giving his blessings for the temple reconstruction?

Mr. Ramamurthi told me “ These days people ask for money. No one requests for a Dhothi , especially to help out with wedding expenses”!

Eventually, after many more miraculous experiences, this Neyveli Temple project has gathered momentum. Two more spiritual members, Mr. Lakshmi Narayanan and Mr. Shankar Trivedi are providing immense support to Mr. Ramamurthi with regard to bringing this renovation attempt to a quick conclusion.

After getting distracted by the above tale, I finally stepped inside Mr. Ramamurthi’s puja room to have a glimpse of Sri Karuvur Siddhar’s photograph!!

How did this come to pass? There is one more story!

While Mr. Ramamurthi visited the Karur Temple, he came to know that a man called Balu Swamy living near the temple is considered to be the modern day Karuvur Siddhar. The priests in the temple regard him as a mystic . However, he was warned that this old man was an eccentric and may not wish to meet him.

Mr. Ramamurthy, decided to try anyway as he was curious . He located the home of Balu Swami and after a long wait, finally entered his abode. Contrary to his expectations ( based largely on the warning given by the locals), Balu Swami treated him as a long lost friend and received him warmly. After spending many hours in the Siddhar’s company, Mr Ramamurthi, reluctantly departed since he had to catch the train back to Chennai. Just before he left, Balu Swami called him back and gave him a “present”. This was the photo of Karuvur Siddhar that Ramamurthi coveted, longed to own but was told it was out of print by the temple priest!!
This might have been a mere coincidence. However, Ramamurthi felt that Balu Swami definitely had psychic powers.

I stepped inside Ramamurthi’s puja room dominated by Devi and just Shakthi in all forms. I could feel very strong vibrations from the simple altar. I sat down for a few moments, looked at the photo of Karuvur Siddhar. Then my attention was riveted to a small photo stuck on the far right hand corner of the wall.

Why!! This was a small photo of Sri Bala!!

I was overjoyed. I felt Bala was somehow approving all my actions!

It was only after I revealed to Mr. Ramamurthi that I was a Bala devotee, did he mention that he too worshipped her, but had never visited Nemili!! However, during the past few days a friend who had been to Nemili had spoken about Sri Bala Peetam and given him the photograph. And I was bringing up the subject again!

He didn’t think this was a mere coincidence. It seemed that Goddess Bala herself was asking him to come to her abode!

He asked me “ Do you think you can take me to Nemili with you on your next visit?”

I replied “ I’m planning on going there tomorrow . You are most welcome to accompany me. And so it came to pass that Mr Ramamurthi and his friend Shankar Trivedi, another spiritual, social worker, received the blessings of Sri Bala in her house at Nemili!


A few days later, on an auspicious Shankatahara Chaturthi day, I revisited Neyveli in the company of Sri Ramamurthi and Shankar. A few more people had arrived to pay their respects to Lord Agneeshwara that day and I was thrilled to witness and participate in performing Milk Abhishekam to the Lord while Mr Ramamurthy sat near the tree chanting Lord Shiva’s powerful hymn, Rudram.
Later that day, the idols of Durga and Lalithambikka were immersed into a trough of water ( for 40 days), as required by temple regulations, before they can be installed inside their respective shrines. Also Mr Ramamurthi performed a simple puja to the entrance threshold of Lord Shiva’s shrine that is just being constructed.

We sat in the shade of the tree and ate a simple lunch while Mr Ramamurthy regaled us with more astonishing stories relating to other temples he had helped renovate.
I sat on a nearby mound for a while as the rest were clearing up the utensils and pooja articles. I squinted up at the tree hoping to catch a glimpse of a deity. A Siddhar’s face? A serpent? The interesting shapes created by the gnarled branches did at times appear to resemble hooded snakes, and I thought I could see the figure of a woman lying amidst the branches with her tresses streaming behind in the breeze, arms outstretched. Could it be “Vana Durga”? (Forest-deity).

Here is a video so that you can see the tree for yourself: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZYInQ3hNaIM

I blinked as the sun was getting too strong and rubbed my eyes. I must have drifted off into another world where I was imagining things!! Yet, there was an unmistakable aura of a female deity
( Shakthi) in that amazing tree.

On the way home, Mr Ramamurthi showed me an enlarged photo taken of the tree some time ago and directed my attention to a spot where I could make out the faces of a man and woman. The man appeared to be wearing a turban. Was this a Siddhar? Could this be Karuvur Siddhar?

As I dropped off Mr Ramamurthi at his residence that evening, I asked him if we could make a trip to Karur to try and see Balu Swami.
He replied that he too had been thinking along the same lines. It appeared he had come across a few roadblocks with respect to this temple’s renovation. Two questions puzzled him. If there was a Kali or Vana Durga present in the tree, appropriate worship should be done to appease these deities. Also, he had been informed by astrologers that a Siddhar’s Samadhi lay beneath the SHIVA Lingam. Could this be Karuvur Siddhar? Another saint, Sri Sadashiva Brahmendrar has also been associated with this shrine. Could this be one of the many places where the latter attained Samadhi?

It was apparent that many pieces of the puzzle were missing and Mr. Ramamurthi was searching for answers to many questions. Also, he was concerned that the temple construction should not stop abruptly. He wished to obtain Balu Swami’s blessings for fulfilling this project.

Bearing all this in mind, we decided to try and re visit Karur . Ramamurthy told me he’d get back to me as soon as he could ascertain if Balu Swamy was indeed available for us to meet him.

Those who are interested in getting involved with the refurbishment of Sree Agneeshwarar Temple can contact:

Mr Shankar Trivedi: sankar.trivedi@gmail.com
cell no: 9445004908.

Chapter Three: In search of a Siddhar.



To accompany this chapter, please see this video chronicling my visit to Balu Swamy: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-XJQRD24Pbo
CHAPTER THREE.

IN SEARCH OF A SIDDHAR.



Two days went by and I hadn’t heard any news from Mr Ramamurthi with regard to Balu Swami and our trip to Karur. So, I called him only to be informed that due to lack of contact details, the Siddhar could not be tracked down.

I was a bit disappointed but refused to give up hope. I searched on the Internet for the phone number for Karur temple. Within a few minutes, I came across a site that gave me the contact number for the Temple Administrative office. I glanced at the clock. It was 2.30 p.m. Most temples close from 12 noon until 4 p.m. and there was only a remote possibility that someone may pick up the phone in the temple’s office!

Nevertheless, I rang the number and after a few minutes it was answered!! Quickly, I introduced myself and enquired if I could obtain Balu Swami’s contact details. The person at the other end hesitated and then said “ I’m not sure if I can get this information for you. Please call back after half an hour”.

I sighed, this seemed like a polite refusal! After waiting patiently for half an hour during which I read the Siddhar’s 30 verses, I called again. The same person answered! However, the man said “ I don’t know where the Siddhar is at the moment. But I can give you the phone number of a man who owns a shop near the temple. This person might be able to help”.

I took down the name and cell number of this contact and dialled the number. The man’s wife answered and said her husband was very busy working and asked me to call back later. However, I provided this lady with a brief background on why I was interested in meeting the Siddhar since I had come across Karuvur Siddhar’s verses on “Puja Vidhi”. I asked her if either she or her husband were acquainted with the Siddhar . The lady replied that they did indeed know him well; in fact they were his devotees. Yet, she too didn’t know where the Siddhar was that day . I told her I’d talk to her husband that night.

It was 9.30 p.m. when I called the shop owner in Karur. He informed me that Balu Swami wasn’t in Karur and had gone off to spend a fortnight in isolation at an undisclosed spot. Although he could give me the phone number of the host family where the Siddhar was staying, he seemed pretty certain no one could get access to him.

I thanked the shop owner and took down the phone number. It was 10 p.m. by now and quite late to disturb anyone. However, I decided to take a chance. After a few rings, the phone was answered and I introduced myself once more, and requested if it was possible to come and meet Balu Swami.

The host’s reply was quite firm. He said “ Balu Swami has come to stay with me because he doesn’t wish to be disturbed. Also, at the moment, he is undergoing certain stresses arising from the yogic austerities he does. I don’t know how long it will take for him to come out of this condition. It could be a few hours or a few days. After he comes out of this situation, I shall mention your phone call and if he wants to see you, I’ll contact you”.

That was that!! I gave the man my cell number and retired to bed. I didn’t hold out much hope of visiting this Siddhar.

The shrill ringing of my cell phone woke me up. I glanced at the clock. It was 11.30 p.m. It was the man who was putting up Balu Swami in his house. He said “ Amma, Balu Swamy would like to talk to you”.
I was astonished “ But, but”, I stammered “ I woudn’t know what to say to a Siddhar”. The man reassured me “ Balu Swami is a very genial and casual person. Don’t worry” So saying he passed the phone and very soon I was talking to the Siddhar.

After the first few minutes, I felt completely at ease, as if I was talking to a person I’d known for a long time. Balu Swamy seemed really delighted to know that I’d come a long way from New York in search for him!! ( i.e. Karuvur Siddhar) “Of course”, he said “ you must come and meet me. But first, I’m going to give you a mantra you must chant for the next 24 hours. I’ll see you after that”. He proceeded to give me a mantra and made me repeat it several times making sure I got it right.

I could hardly believe this was happening. I spent over an hour chatting to this cheerful man who seemed quite happy to meet me a day later. I mentioned Ramamurthi would accompany me as well. Balu Swami laughed and said “There’s another man called Lakshmi Narayanan, do bring him along too. Oh, by the way do you have any dietary restrictions? You must have lunch here!”

I thanked him for his hospitality, promised to recite the mantra for the next 24 hours and then come to see him.

I called Ramamurthi the following day. Before I could share my news, he said “ Amma, it looks like Balu Swami’s whereabouts are not known. Better luck next time”.
I replied “ I have done my homework and traced him to a little village near Dindigal. I plan on leaving tomorrow morning. Can you come and bring Mr Lakshmi Narayanan as well”?

The next day, we started at 6 a.m. I couldn’t believe I was travelling with two complete strangers in the search for a man who might be a Siddhar? Perhaps an incarnation of Karuvur Siddhar?

During the car journey, Ramamurthi entertained me with a lot of interesting stories. His friend, Lakshmi Narayanan, a younger man remained quiet yet attentive and I could detect an intense spiritual aura around him.

I mentally recited the Siddhar’s mantra continuously until we reached the outskirts of the village near Dindigal.
By 11.30 a.m. we entered the modest little house belonging to Muniandi, where Balu Swami was staying.

The house was small, just two small rooms with a very low ceiling. Hardly any light filtered inside through the narrow windows overlooking the street. Outside, was a small verandah covered with a thatched roof. A mat was laid out on the floor and there, leaning against the wall, his mouth full of betel leaves, red juice dripping down his chin, sat a wizened old man with a huge pot belly and a fluffy, white beard. This was Balu Swami!

“Welcome, welcome, all of you” he said, his eyes twinkling with delight and a huge beaming smile on his face. “ Do come and sit near me”. He beckoned us to come closer. After paying our respects and placing a few bags of fruits near his feet, I sat directly in front of him.
Ramamurthi and Lakshmi Narayanan had brought in a few tall bottles of a drink called Bovonto. They placed this offering near the Swami. The host, Muniandi, his wife , the shop owner from Karur and his young wife joined our party and we were all seated in front of Swami.

The Swami took a swig from a bottle of 7 UP that was next to him and passed it around for us to drink. He looked at me and said “ There are two things I don’t like people telling me to do. I don’t like being asked to eat and I don’t like being told to have a bath”.
I stared in amazement!! He carried on “I haven’t eaten solid food for the past twelve years at least. I chew these betel leaves, but don’t swallow it. I just spit it out!! I haven’t had a bath in just as many years. Now, tell me do you think I smell”?

I shook my head both in disbelief as well as an answer to his question. All of a sudden something stirred in my memory. I had read that the Avadootha sect were also not bound by either rituals or general requirements like physical hygiene. Very often they wandered like mad men through the countryside, bodies caked with dirt and matted hair. In other words, these enlightened souls were impervious to bodily requirements.

Although my Guru, Sri Shanthananda wore a ochre robe , it is said that his Guru and Parameshti GURU, including Sri Sadashiva Brahmendrar wandered about completely naked.

As if he was reading my thoughts, Balu Swami asked me “ Now, why did you travel so far to come and meet a “paradesi” (outcast) like me?”

However, before I could reply, Balu Swami started to make some strange noises, and at the same time began tapping different parts of his chest, neck, shoulders and stomach. I wasn’t sure if he was in pain. His devotees sat silently and gestured us not to talk.
After emitting a series of hollow sounding gasps, Balu Swami eventually stood with his back against the wall and started to bang his arm and shoulders rather violently against it. Even at this point his devotees did not seemed concerned.

Finally, after a long shuddering sigh and a swift jerk of his body, Swami returned to normal and resumed conversation. He told us he had “no collar bone” and his “bones” were literally “melting” within his frame. He explained that the Kundalini power rising through his spine often subjected him to various stresses. He demonstrated this by asking each one of us to feel the vibrations at the base of his spine and I could feel the upward movement of this power, to the base of his skull!

Next, he announced that the fragrance of many flowers and sandalwood could emanate from his body. He stretched out his hand and asked the three of us to smell and experience the different perfumes. I couldn’t really make out the scent of Jasmine or sandalwood like he claimed but maintained a prudent silence. However, both Mr Ramamurthi and his friend nodded their heads indicating they could detect many fragrances.


For several hours Balu Swami spoke to us that day on a wide variety of topics relating to Saiva Siddhanta philosophy, the message of the Lord in Bhagavad Gita, spirituality, and the main goals of human life.
Quoting extensively from various holy texts and scriptures, he explained the great Vedantic truth of the non duality between the individual and the Supreme creator.

Balu Swami’s viewpoint is extremely simple. He says “ Just contemplate on the unity between you and the Supreme being. Recite the mantra I give and throw away all rituals, all other mantras in praise of different deities, and traditional practices that have clogged up your mind. What is the use of going to a temple? The priest there is going to take your money, chant a few praises for the Lord. IS that going to make you happy? NO!!

So, delve deep within yourself, realise the true nature of the Atma. Understand that “you”(Atma) are not associated with either your body, or the actions and feelings associated with that. Understand that you will only get total peace of mind only when you master the art of not reacting to the problems of this material world.”

A lot of what he discussed with us that day is no different from the wisdom revealed in the Upanishads and I thought of Bhagavan Ramana’s advice to every individual, “ Find out who you really are, discover the immortal nature of yourself!” Certainly, Balu Swami’s doctrine is similar to that of many learned saints and sages. However, his remarks about the unimportance of rituals prescribed in the Vedas, or questioning the necessity of pilgrimage to temples, may not be accepted by many Hindus since not everyone has evolved to such a high state of spiritual development.

There was a short break for lunch. Balu Swami watched us eat, but did not partake of any food. However, he requested for just a handful of rice and rasam from me and then took a little morsel of food from the two men too, most of which he returned to them as “prasadam”.

Following lunch, we came out on the Verandah again and Balu Swami resumed his talks. He told us that every month on Full moon days, he does a special puja at Karuvur Siddhar’s shrine. Following this he gives speeches on various spiritual topics and then, over a thousand poor people and visitors to the temple are given a hearty meal. He showed us samples of his written work and the speech he was currently working on.
Most of these referred to the wise teachings given in the Bhagavad Gita. Yet, Swami’s interpretation and explanations were clear and concise.

The hours slipped by quickly. Actually, Mr. Lakshmi Narayanan and Ramamurthi had fore-warned me that Balu Swami had the habit of talking for a long time and would not allow visitors to depart quickly. Mr L. wanted to depart by 4 p.m. so we could visit the famous temple of Pazhani ( abode of Lord Murugan) located close to Dindigal.

Mr. Ramamurthi had come on this trip only to get the Siddhar’s approval and blessings so he could proceed unhindered with his temple renovation. However, every time he started the topic, the Siddhar distracted us by discussing something else.

After lunch, Mr Ramamurthi brought up the story of his temple project one more time and sought the Siddhar’s blessings. Balu Swami laughed and said “There is no doubt that the good deeds (punyam) you have done in your past life have made it possible for you to be in this spiritual field, renovating so many temples. However, if you had been listening to what I said earlier, you would have realised that your main priority is NOT to worry about this temple project that has stalled. Instead your main focus should be to attain liberation. Understanding that you, the Atma, and God or Param Atma are one and the same gives you instant liberation. Throw out all the cobwebs in your mind. Cast away all previously given mantras. Just chant, with full faith, the mantra I’ve given you. That is enough”.

Then suddenly, he looked at Lakshmi Narayanan and asked “ You are getting worried that I’m not letting you go. What other agenda did you have in mind before coming to see me?”

The latter mentioned about the visit to Pazhani temple and requested permission (uthiravu) to depart since if we left immediately we might be able to get there in time for the evening darshan.
Balu Swami looked at me and asked “ Why have you come here?”. I replied “To see you”. He laughed , got up and asked me to come with him to the Puja room.

This was the inner, second room of the tiny house. On a desk in one corner were photographs of a few Hindu deities as well as those of Jesus, Aurobindo and the Mother. The Siddhar gave me some sacred ash ((vibhuti) and asked me to swallow it. Then, placing his hand on my head he asked me to repeat a mantra. This was different from the earlier one he’d given me over the phone. However, Balu Swami told me that I should start chanting this new mantra immediately.

I prostrated him and came out to join the others on the verandah.
Balu Swami lay down on the mat . He told me to grasp the big toe of his right foot. He requested Mr R to hold on to his hand and Mr LN to touch his leg. The two devotees from Karur were similarly asked to sit beside him and hold on to him. Then he remarked “We’re all going to do some meditation now. You will feel the energy coming from my body and entering yours. When you see a bright, white glow in the center of your eyes, you will realise that the mantra I’ve given you is working. So, start reciting the mantra mentally, all of you! I’m going to take rest for a while”.

I closed my eyes and sat by the Siddhar’s right foot, holding on to his toe. I didn’t feel any “current” entering my body. I was mentally chanting the mantra the Siddhar had just given me. About half an hour passed and although I was focused, I did not see any bright glow. In fact, when I normally sit down to meditate, I’m able to slip into a quieter state quite easily. That day, it seemed difficult.

The Siddhar’s voice rang out “ Are you seeing a bright glow?”. Two of his devotees replied they could. So did MR. LN and Mr. R. I said “No, I cannot see anything.” Also, by this time my knee started to hurt. I have a torn ligament and have been warned by doctors not to sit cross legged.

The Siddhar announced we could have a small break. I told him I had difficulty sitting on the floor. He made me stretch out my legs and held both feet tightly in his hands for a moment. Then he said “Now, you won’t have knee pain anymore”. He asked me to follow him to the puja room once more, applied vibhuti to my forehead and told me to sit in a chair while he placed his hand on my head. I closed my eyes and sat on the chair. For a long time, I felt the gentle weight of the Siddhar’s hand on my head. After another half hour or so, he told me to open my eyes. He gave me instructions to repeat the mantra every morning before dawn for two hours.

It was quite late in the evening by now. Certainly we couldn’t go to Pazhani . In fact, all three of us had spent about 8 hours in this little house and were tired. Sensing this, the Siddhar finally gave us permission to depart. He suggested we stay at a lodge in Karur overnight, visit the famous temples of Karuvur Siddhar and Sadasiva Brahmendrar’s Samadhi at Nerur the following day.

Just before we departed, he told me to pay a visit to his house near the Karur temple and sit inside his puja room. He asked me to meditate there for a while. I promised to do this.

Balu Swami’s devotees from Karur travelled back with us that night in the car. Mr. Kalyanaraman ( the shop owner) said he would accompany us to the temples the following day.

The room at the lodge in Karur was stuffy and small. However, I was so tired that I quickly drifted off to sleep. Early next morning, I woke up and tried to chant the Siddhar’s mantra for an hour before dawn. Again, I really did not see a bright glow even though my mind was focused.

Later, in the morning we visited the famous temple in Nerur where the great Avadhutha saint, Sri Sadashiva Brahmendrar attained Samadhi. A poet and musician, Brahmendrar composed many songs that reflect the Vedantic concept of “oneness” with Brahman (Param Atma). Although he was often subject to ridicule because he wandered about wearing no clothes, this saint was totally absorbed in samadhi all the time and slowly people around him came to witness many miracles and realised his greatness.

It is said there are at least five places where Sadashiva Brahmendrar has shed his mortal body. However in Nerur, the story goes that a Bilva tree sprouted forth from the area where the saint had been buried. A shiva lingam from Kasi was established at the base of the tree and devotees come to this sacred spot to meditate.
The atmosphere inside the temple was calm and tranquil. I sat in meditation for a while seeking this great saint’s blessings.

Here is a video of Nerur Temple: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bSfYGD7MiqU

I remembered my Guru, Sri Shanthananda Swamigal as well and paid my respects to all the respected saints in the Avadootha sect.

Mr. Ramamurthy mentioned that Brahmendrar was supposed to have worshipped Lord Shiva as Agneeshwarar in the Neyveli village as well. We prayed to the Lord for the successful completion of the temple.

On the way back to Karur we stopped off at a famous and ancient temple for Lord Muruga located in VennaiMalai. However, there is a separate shrine for Karuvur Siddhar inside the premises. The temple was fairly quiet without too many people about. I sat before the sanctum of Karuvur Siddhar and prayed for his guidance. Then we stood before the enchanting form of Lord Muruga in the main shrine and I beseeched this Lord, to help me on my spiritual path. I closed my eyes and repeated the mantra given to me by the Siddhar. Without warning, I felt myself slipping into a state of total silence. I couldn’t feel my body any longer. There was a strong vibration, rather like a bolt of lightning going through my body and bright, luminous circles of white light came pouring into me seeming to go deep into my body.
I opened my eyes and witnessed the alankaara Deepam being offered to the Lord!

Later, we went to Karur and I spent some time in quiet meditation before the Samadhi of the great Karuvur Siddhar. After that, we visited Balu Swamy’s house and I stepped inside the small puja room in his house and sat in silent contemplation.



We left Karur after lunch and returned to Chennai in the late evening. On the way back, I questioned my companions about their experiences, in particular, the bright glow they had claimed to have witnessed and the different fragrances they could smell from the siddhar’s body. This was important because I didn’t really experience the same and needed to know how I could be directed on to the right path!!

Both Mr R AND Mr LN smiled at me and said “ We said we could smell different fragrances and see that bright light because we were tired of sitting in that hut and just wanted to get away!”

This was such a refreshingly honest answer that we all broke out in laughter!!

There’s no doubt that Balu Swamy is an extraordinary person. Is he a Siddhar? Could he be a reincarnation of Karuvur Siddhar?
Definitely, Balu Swamy does not proclaim himself to be a mystic . On the other hand, he revealed himself to be an extremely humble and lovable man. However, the small band of his devotees are totally convinced about his supernatural powers and have placed full trust in him.

For a few days after my return I kept chanting the Siddhar’s mantra. However, I could not get up at 4 a.m. every day to do this and slipped into a pattern of reciting it at different times during the day.
Balu Swami called me two days after I met him and told me to keep chanting the mantra to the exclusion of all others. However, I could not bring myself to give up the mantra given by my Guru Sri Shanthananda Swamigal nor Sri Bala’s moola Mantram.

Meanwhile the auspicious festival of Navarathri was about to commence and my thoughts hovered around Sri Bala. Perhaps She was “testing” me again by making me chant mantras at the crack of dawn, while singing her sweet songs involves no physical stress and is more potent?

I’m not sure. However, all I do know for certain is that full faith and devotion (Bhakthi) to the Lord in any form, combined with dedication in carrying out rituals, whether these involve singing songs or reciting mantrams, are all different ways of elevating an individual spiritually and leading him to the final goal of liberation.

Once again, those wishing to help with the Lord Agneeshwarar Temple project, kindly contact:

Mr. Shankar Trivedi: sankar.trivedi@gmail.com
cell no: 9445004908.

Mr. Ramamurthi: cell no: 9940398648.

Chapter Four: A new curtain for Bala Peetam at Navarathri.




CHAPTER FOUR..

A NEW CURTAIN FOR BALA PEETAM AT NAVARATHRI.


Navarathri is usually celebrated with great pomp and style at Sri Bala Peetam. This year was no exception. The small, yet divine house in Nemili reverberated with music and special events were planned each day to honour famous artistes. Every morning, puja and abhishekam for the deities took place followed by music concerts. The daily festivities concluded with Mahaa Deeparadhanai just before lunch. This was a grand spectacle, during which Sri Bala was honoured by an array of glittering lamps.

I felt blessed to visit Sri Bala’s house on most of the days during this auspicious period, including the final day of the Chandi Homam. On this day, the great Goddess finally triumphs in her attempt to slay the wicked demon Mahishasura( negative qualities). Bala’s little house was packed with devotees that night and at the appointed time when the furious Goddess kills the demon, the entire crowd was chanting Sri Bala’s songs!
This was an awesome moment and one that I shall cherish forever.

Some interesting events took place in the week preceding Navarathri and to narrate this more clearly, I have to provide some background information going further back in time.

On one of my visits to Nemili in the week before Navarathri, I sat before this lovable child just enjoying the moment. As I took leave that day, my attention was drawn to the curtain (Thirai) in front of the main dais where Sri Bala’s Mandapam is located. It had been a long time desire on my part to gift a brand new screen for the Peetam with a huge picture of her printed in the centre of it.

On my previous visit to India last year, I thought I would ask Sri Baba.G’s permission to print an image of Bala on a huge curtain . Since the official photograph published by Bala Peetam on all CD covers, pamphlets and books is a reproduction of a Tanjore painting gifted by a devotee, I thought I would use this image instead of putting in my own art work.

However, during that visit, my objective was not fulfilled. It seemed to me that Bala had not approved my request. Yet, this year certain events took place that seemed to trigger a series of happenings.

Earlier this year, on May 22nd, 2010, I published a drawing of Bala on my blog site. Sri Bala directed me to finish this painting in exactly two days and asked me to represent her in the manner of a small child reaching out to devotees both arms outstretched.
I had already completed a similar portrait a year earlier. However, without really understanding the reason, I completed this task. Soon, the picture as well as the accompanying story was put up on my website.

On the day I was to depart from New York bound for India, while I was just about to pack my suitcase, Sri Bala gave me a sudden command. This was “ Place that painting of me in the suitcase and bring it to India”. I was puzzled since I knew the dimension of the painting was larger than that of the suitcase and there wasn’t a chance it would fit inside the box. I thought perhaps I could make a separate package and carry it in hand. However, time was running out and I didn’t have suitable packing materials. My husband suggested I take the painting on the next trip. I was also inclined to agree. However, the mental suggestions from Bala continued to urge me to put the painting in first before I packed anything else.

So, I prayed to Bala “ If you really want me to bring this home, you have to help me with a miracle.”

And, she did!!

I found to my great amazement that the painting fitted “exactly” into the box!!

I was totally astonished by this almost magical event.

Anyway, in this painting, Bala is wearing a bright pink skirt and a green blouse, and stands arms outstretched on a pale white lotus tinged with light rose color. A glowing golden halo surrounds her head, while the orange and red tinged rays of early dawn begin at her feet and light up the bright blue sky. Her feet rest on a colourful pedestal decorated in hues of orange, purple and maroon.
Nine different colors have been used in this painting. However, while hastening to finish this work in May, I was being continuously directed by Bala and did not really pay much attention to the choice of colors.



So, a week before Navarathri, armed with this painting, I came to Nemili. My intention was to get Bala’s blessings for the portrait. However, she had other plans!

Sri Baba.G selected this painting as the central image for the screen I volunteered to offer to the Peetam. He went on to provide the reason for his choice. “ It has been ordained by Sri Bala that on the very first day of Navarathri, Mohan should commence puja and wear a green dhothi. Now, this green color on Bala’s blouse in the painting seems to echo her wishes. Also, on each of the nine days, we intend to decorate the peetam in different colours. All these particular colors are in your painting”.

He proceeded to count the various hues!!

I was stunned!! First of all, I wasn’t aware of the real reason for doing this painting 4 months ago. Secondly, I didn’t understand the necessity of bringing the actual painting into Bala Peetam when a photograph of it would have been good enough!

As it turned out, the screen printing process required the original art work. With Bala’s grace, the screen was finished and delivered to the Peetam on the day before commencement of Navarathri.

So, it turned out that Bala had certain specific “reasons” for my painting.

On the very first day of Navarathri, after the completion of abhishekam, this brand new curtain for Bala was swiftly inaugurated.
During the short interval when Sri Bala was being decorated in her Mandapam inside, her devotees could feast their eyes on an almost life like image of this child on the colourful screen!

My eyes brimming with tears, I witnessed the “Viswaroopa” Sri Bala seeming to “step” right out of the curtain ready to grant all the wishes of her loving devotees!!