Devotees' Experiences

Om Vishnupad 108 Tridandi Swami Sri Srimat Bhakti Sravan Tirtha Goswami Maharaj ki Jai !!

(Feb/March 2001)

Dr. Meera Panigrahi

To write about Baba seems a difficult job. To give utterance to deeply remembered thoughts and experiences that have passed into the recesses of my being and have shaped my mind and spirit, even become the very cause of my existence, needs the guidance and power of Gods.

It wouldn't be right to say that I met him on such and such a date or time. When I met him for the first time. I knew that I had known Him for ages. It was just a flash of recognition that brought that spontaneous smile of joy on both our faces.

I was in my early thirties; mother of three growing children; a traditional wife and a responsible government officer. But it took time for all such considerations which inhibit the spirit and retard the progress of the soul, to be shed. He was my Guru for many births, now manifest in new attire, in a new guise.

Only, I felt unequal to the tasks that I thought would automatically fall to my lot by virtue of my association with Him, and I was utterly dejected by my inadequacies. I was overwhelmed with a terrible fear that He would leave me forever, being convinced about my lack of interest in matters of the spirit, my ignorance of scripture; above all my lack of devotion to God.

What would I not have given to unwind the skeins of time, to begin my life all over again, to be born again with an awakened consciousness that would effortlessly drift me into a state of divine surrender to a supreme being who would pervade my soul in a loving embrace, and with whom I would know no sorrow?

I had made cursory readings of the life histories of some saints and devout men, the record of whose spiritual journeys was enough to deter any ordinary person. I was aware of the trials and tribulations that beset an aspirant when he steps into the spiritual arena, and the deep spiritual peace that floods the soul and takes it to a state of indescribable joy at the end.

I felt that unless I myself made that herculean effort it would not be possible to receive His blessings or to use this life of mine for more important and life enhancing labours. These thoughts kept my mind occupied for a long time and I found myself in a crisis. On the one hand there arose an intense need to experience, know and practice spiritual truths, on the other I had grave forebodings about my abilities and perseverance.

I spent nights weeping in frustration, fearing that I would languish in grief. Baba would never deign to teach a lowly person like me the truths that great men have acquired at great cost and clutched to their hearts like treasures.

Later I found how absurd these thoughts were and how little I had understood the ways of sadgurus. Baba who comes in a line of Param Vaishnavas, whose lineage could be traced back to Shri Krishna, the original Guru, has limitless daya and limitless powers. He can transform an imbecile into a pundit, the damned into a saint.

Many important incidents took place after I met him. Dreams of Shri Vishnu and Goddess Lakhsmi, of saints and deities of Lord Jagannath, of Lord Shiva and Ma Parvati began to enrich my sleeping hours.

There were many life-saving miracles that occurred and all these helped me to think of Him as no ordinary sadhu, but as the supreme Lord, Himself. Although I had never striven for a Guru, nor indeed had I realised its need and importance, I felt drawn to Him and as a result, as days passed this attraction solidified into an intense desire.

Man, saint, or God? These questions kept me wondering and sometimes I saw him in one role and sometimes in another. Even now after twenty or more years with Him I have not been able to decide. However these thoughts were immaterial in the face of a new awareness of His power and majesty, and most important of all, His love and compassion.

Those were the days of immeasurable joy and magic of new discovery. Gouranga Ashram, Bhubaneswar was flooded with people, who flocked in droves to have his darshan, to worship at the shrine of Lord Nrisingha which he built and to take the medical help of doctors who attended poor patients at the charitable dispensary which he founded.

Every Sunday there would be pravachan and naam kirtan and prasad sevan. Distribution of holy water (charanaamrita) and tulsi leaves to devotees was a routine task. Innumerable cases of patients being cured of diseases like cancer through his intervention and kripa, left us stunned and we began to realise that before our very eyes history was enacting a saga of great spiritual significance.

Together with the festivals and feasts, kirtans and dances, discourses and rites, there were regular trips to nearby holy places and darshan of holy men who came from far and near.

Most outstanding of all the incidents that was to enhance our understanding of Baba was the 500th birth celebration of Lord Gouranga when Baba, along with thousands of devotees, went on a historical padayatra similar to the one undertaken by Mahaprabhu during his lifetime.

This was a spectacle the likes of which has never been seen anywhere. It drew crowds of joyous men and women, who were transported with heavenly bliss as they joined the procession, singing and dancing in abandon, pouring forth their souls, in a wave of ecstasy.

The sankirtan party moved from town to town, village to village covering the whole of the South and East, touching nearly all the holy spots where Mahaprabhu had manifested his divine lila at various times.

It was during this time that Baba reached out to thousands of people of all religions and creeds, the believer and the nonbeliever, and instilled into their hearts a sense of devotion and love for the sweet and soul-nourishing name of Lord Krishna.

The devotees were firmly convinced that He was none other than Gouranga Mahaprabhu who had come back to complete what he had left unfinished, to see that the Mahamantra, the repetition of which brought freedom from earthly bondage, found its way into the hearts and souls of every one.

We have been immensely benefitted by his discourses and his precepts. Yet there have been times when we were plagued by doubts and disbeliefs. It was during those moments of darkness and despair that we experienced the greatest pain. No other pain is as acute as the pain of separation when our souls' stay and sustenance is taken away due to our own negligence, and we flounder in a sea of scepticism that acts as poison, and slowly dries away the tender roots of the delicate sapling we call Bhakti.

The seeds of Bhakti have been very carefully sown deep inside us by our Guru. With great love and compassion has He tended to it. He has never taken the worthiness of the shishya into consideration. When He accepts him/her into His fold, only the sincerity is considered. He has completely simplified the entire process of God realisation, making Naam Supreme, and Naam Yagnya the only path to godhood.

Baba has repeatedly enjoined us to free ourselves from the tentacles of kama, krodh, lobha and moha which mar our imagination and perception and deflect us from our paths, and stressed the importance of humility as essential elements in our personality.

It is needless to say that His devotees have had darshan of Him in various forms, according to the form they love most. Some who worship Lord Shri Raam have seen Him in that form. Those who are the true followers of Shri Gouranga Mahaprabhu have been blessed by seeing Him in the person of Baba. Some feel convinced that He is Lord Shri Krishna or Lord Jagannath who has descended into this world to work out our salvation through the subtle manifestation of His eternal lilas. To those who desire knowledge, He has granted knowledge of the Ultimate; to those who desire peace, He has granted the peace that surpasses all understanding; to those who desire love, only love.

He has granted the highest and the most everlasting of all boons - love for Lord Krishna, a desire to serve Him as His friend, parent or beloved, and an intense longing to reside with Him in the eternal abode of Brindavan.

Those who have become pure of heart due to His Kripa, simply pray that in life after life Baba should be the Lord of their hearts and He should command them as He pleases. To serve Him as would please Him best, to know Him as their dearest object of love and deepest longing, to be forever tied to Him with the golden cords of love, is the prayer in the hearts of all His most beloved devotees.
O my Lord, my sweetest Lord, when will this prayer be mine?

Jai Guru