Swamijis, Spirituality, and Stress

October 5, 2010

Today, a friend of ours asked us to come over for a one-on-one meeting with the Swamiji who has been giving lectures at his sisters’ place. Let me give the facts about this Swamiji:

He is an M.Sc from IIT Kharagpur, and did his doctorate, too, though I can’t remember in what field.

He was dumb until the age of 8 or 9, and had intense kidney trouble as a child.

He travels extensively, all over the world, and his ashram is in Tirupati.

Now, when I get the chance to meet any religious or spiritual person (to me the two are different), I do go, and go with an open mind. In the past, I’ve never had the kind of epiphany that seems to occur suddenly for some people. In fact, with one noted Godman, I had such a strong reaction of aversion that I surprised myself.

This evening, there was nothing negative. The Swamiji had a radiant smile, and talked to us for about 15 or 20 minutes. We did not go to him with any specific problems, nor did he offer miracle cures or salvation. But though he talked, there was nothing that in any way held any special attraction for me.

The friend, an ardent devotee, told me that the Swamiji does not solicit for any donations…but then spoilt it for me by saying, “But I can ask you for donations to the Ashram”. If money is going to be solicited, then the mystique does not exist.

Another big spoiler for me was when the Swamiji materialized a Rudraksh for KM and a stone (er, I think it is a diamond, but I don’t know) for me. This, alas, put me right off, as I am a big “anti-fan” of these daily miracles. If it is done every day, for every one, how can it be a miracle? How come conjurers are also able to materialize things without invoking God or spirituality? I instantly felt beholden in some way, and felt that we would have to contribute at least the value of the things that had been materialized (or given) to us.

I had long chats with our friend, and his son, both of whom are intelligent, rational people, but who have unswerving faith in the Swamiji. But I am unable to substantiate their claims of his going into Sadhna and being in several places at once. And I cannot take such claims on faith…. I haven’t developed enough faith in him for that.

And I somehow have never yet been able to call any man or woman an incarnation of God, as my friend said about the Swamiji. It hasn’t happened…and it didn’t happen today.

Somehow, I was very stressed after this meeting….I cannot figure why, when it was, really, a pleasant episode. Was I scared of an epiphany happening? Was I somehow scared of the Swamiji? Not so, as I usually act true to my conscience, and do not lie knowingly (I am not even able to lie socially…more about this shortly.)

But…though I was told that the Swamiji does not solicit funds, it was quite obvious that donations are being made. And that made me muse on the social pressure on people who meet the Swamiji, to make donations. “he has shared his time with you, you should share some of your money for the cause” is the unstated subtext. There is pressure on one to make a donation, by the very fact of mentioning others who have donated a lot.

We were also told to talk to him about any problems that we had. We didn’t do that….to us, the idea of somone offering solutions on a spiritual plate seems, somehow, not right. We believe that the human condition comes beset with problems, which we ourselves should find the inner strength to resolve. (And frankly, I am also in the enviable position of NOT having any major problems!)

And another pressure exists, one that I wasn’t able to sidestep completely. When such a buildup is given about meeting a holy man, the devotee questions you about what happened, after the meeting. How on earth to say that the earth did not shake for you, that it was a pleasant meeting, but no more? When our friend said, “this is a once-in-a-lifetime experience”, how to say that I agree, because I will not be meeting him again if I can help it? So we said polite and insincere things….I said KM had been given good advice…said how glad I felt to meet him…and I think the stress of even that social non-truth-speaking was so much for me, that I developed a raging headache that became a (rare) migraine on the way back home, and was quite ill for a while. I’ve never before developed such a strong “social pressure” headache ever before. My whole alimentary system reacted, to put it politely. I was sick…and worse.

The headache cleared up within an hour or so, and I am able to sit and type this.

I really do NOT know what to make of this incident. I did not really want to go and meet the Swamiji, but KM was told to bring me, and I complied. Certainly, I found a very impressive person…but there was no epiphany, and I have found equally impressive people in so many other situations. And…that materialization…to me…is a no-no.

But how to convey this to our friend…and how do we avoid the trip to Tirupati that the Swamiji has asked us to make?

The complexities in responding to people who have strong faith (and these are not unreasoning believers, they gave convincing accounts of how their scepticism turned into faith), when I myself have not felt the spark that they did, is very stressful indeed, for me. I’ve faced this situation when we were taken to Satya Sai Baba, and when I went to give the concert before that Amma in Memphis, Tennessee. Being policitally correct does not come easily to me, I’m sad to say, especially in matters of faith and spiritual beliefs, which I feel are intensely personal and must be talked about truthfully.

But in each case, telling our friends that we felt no spark would, I felt, be inappropriate, and would also belittle the sincere effort they’ve made in trying to get us to meet someone that they revere. So..the effort at saying things that I cannot deem to be true…hence the intense stress.

Another incident in my spiritual journey, and one that utterly confused me today and stressed me terribly. I wish…I had not gone…but in future, if such an opportunity arises again, I will go again…with an open mind. Perhaps the epiphany may be awaiting me….