[Sreeman Neelesh Kumar alias Bunty, from Jamshedpur, started coming to the Ashram for Summer Gurukula when he was eight.  In 1995 Poojya Swamiji had asked him to come to the Ashram after his annual examinations.  He was 14 at that time. He came alone on a 50-hour train journey from Kharagpur to Thrissur. Bunty stayed for 3 weeks in the Ashram.   The following narrative is an abridged rendering from his notebook.]

…As the train started from Kharagpur I could see my mother’s eyes getting filled with tears.  I also felt sad, but the joy of coming to the Ashram overwhelmed all other feelings.  I climbed up to my berth and thinking about all the restraints and austerities I would have to observe during the following days, I fell asleep. …

I was overjoyed as the train entered Thrissur station.  The atmosphere was cool and wet.  There must have been a good shower.  I got down on the platform, looked here and there, and walked confidently, determined to reach Ashram alone.  But, near the gate I found Unnikrishnan uncle looking around anxiously.  As I prostrated before him, he smiled and remarked, “So, you have made it all alone!”  We walked to the car and in half an hour we were at the Ashram.

My accommodation was arranged in the Atithi Mandir close to the Ashram. Taking bath early, as I came out of my room, I was moved by the enchanting sight of the dark coconut fronds against the morning twilight.  The atmosphere was calm, pure and peaceful.  In that early morning silence I went to prostrate before Swamiji.

Swamiji was on his easy chair.  He asked me to come closer.  Touching my eyes he said, “You have come alone.  Let the life of austerity start from now.  The more you take pains, the better it is.”  In Jamshedpur when he had touched my eyes, my journey for coming alone to the Ashram had started.  And now, as he touched my eyes, I felt that a great journey for a new life began.

The Ashram was the same, having the same enchanting effect on my mind.  The life here appears to be a complete contrast to that in cities. Everybody here seems to be working for others, accepting all the situations heartily with no complaint.  Swamiji, Maa, Nutan Swamiji – all of them were the same loving and caring souls as they were before.  But now, I was no more the same playful child.

The morning twilight which had been a rare sight for me, now never passed without getting my attention.  The swing under the Champakam tree, for which I used to fight with my friends, kept on beckoning me in vain.  Days passed in Maa’s kitchen, Nutan Swamiji’s room and Swamiji’s chair.  I never knew that time had such large wings.  Only when it was time for Shankar Bhaiya’s arrival, I suddenly realized that 7 long days had flown too fast.

A Rare Period of Exclusive Company

Shankar Bhaiya is one with whom I discuss every notable event of my life.  Sitting together we listen to each other’s thoughts and observations with interest, love and humour.  In the field of studies too, he has been my inspiration. The parents of both of us belong to the huge family of Swamiji’s Jamshedpur-devotees, and long back we two got bound unawares in a bond of love through Swamiji’s association.  Naturally, I was happy about Shankar Bhaiya’s arrival. But I also felt that the rare opportunity of my being alone with Maa and Swamijis is going to be over.

Nutan Swamiji told me that I could come with him to the station to receive Shankar Bhaiya. So, I took bath early in the afternoon and was ready to go the station.  We reached the station at proper time but found that the train was late by one and half hours.  

As we loitered leisurely on the platform, Nutan Swamiji asked me, “Do you find anything special about your stay in the Ashram this time?  Generally, you come with friends and most of the day you remain busy with the routine.  But this time you are alone, moving always very closely with us without any fixed routine. All these seven days you had an opportunity to see us closely how we interact amongst ourselves.  Do you have any new insight or new observation?”

I replied, “I do not know how much I shall be able to express, but the stay this time has certainly been an entirely new experience. Observing Swamiji, Maa and yourself interacting freely in various situations, I have been wondering what is it that binds all of you in such a sweet relationship!  Even the arguments or seeming quarrels you have amongst yourselves appear to me so sweet!

“Earlier I respected Swamiji thinking him to be my Guru and a great Mahatma. But now I have started loving him. Listening to Maa’s diary has introduced in me a new love for her “Posha”.  My concept of devotion has changed completely.  Now I can see in Swamiji the simplicity of a child – how he always comes to Maa for anything he needs! 

“One day we found Swamiji sitting with a grave face. Maa told us: ‘Nutan Swamiji must have had some difference with Posha; that is why Posha’s face is like this. Go and see, Nutan Swamiji also must be sitting somewhere with a dim face.’  

“I went to your room and found that it was exactly so! Another day, there was some disagreement between you and Swamiji. Both of you came separately and complained to Maa like her two children.  I liked it so much; felt a purity growing in me.”

Nutan Swamiji remarked: “You are blessed.  That is why our scriptures emphasize Satsanga beyond everything else.  What you have felt and known through direct interaction, seekers fail to understand even after years of sadhana or scriptural studyIt is the lack of “ego” that makes everything sweet.  Cleansing of ego is always accompanied by a feeling of purity.  If you love Swamiji, that purity will automatically percolate you.”

I wanted to tell Nutan Swamiji also about a sense of belonging growing in me about the Ashram.  But before I could express myself, Howrah-Cochin Express arrived on Platform No.1.  And we could see Shankar Bhaiya waving his hand from his compartment.

Understanding Spirituality

Swamiji was becoming more and more busy with the temple reconstruction work on the hill-top.  His long absence during the Jamshedpur Jnaana Yajna had resulted in a great delay in completing the work and making the temple ready for Naveekarana (renovation) as scheduled. Everyday he used to be with the labourers for long hours in the hot summer sun. Some days, he would come for food only by 1.30 pm.  

One day, while taking food after a very hard job, he remarked, “You don’t know how tasty the food is after a hard and strenuous work. I think you have never enjoyed your food so much.”  Towards the end, both Swamiji and Nutan Swamiji had to spend day and night on the hill top. In spite of this extremely busy schedule, most of the days Swamiji used to spend some time with us telling something about spiritual sadhana or personality development. 

One day, while explaining the meaning of the word ‘spirituality’ he said: “A spiritual person would always derive his strength from within; he would not look to any external God for anything.  A religious man does pooja sitting in his pooja room.  His pooja is separate from his worldly activities.  A spiritual man may not even do any pooja; but he has to find God’s presence in everything while interacting with the world. So, is not spiritual living much more difficult than a usual religious life?  That is why an exclusive spiritual life is so rare.”

On another occasion Swamiji mentioned: “If a spiritual person fails in anything, he will not blame the external circumstances; he will always look for the subjective cause of failure. Before acting for any objective redress, he will work for the subjective correction needed. His focus will always be his own mind and heart.”

The last few days, time passed without our knowledge.  Everybody became very busy with the temple work. Often we used to take some drink for Swamiji working on the hill top. These moments, I felt, were great and rare.  Working hard in hot sun, Swamiji would look tired and scorched.  Giving him the cool fruit-juice prepared lovingly by Maa, was a great joy.  Swamiji would sit or stand under some shade to take the drink.  Seeing Swamiji there against the background of endless coconut grove merging with the vast sky had such a soothing effect that I used to feel like seeing him for years.

An Objective Look at Ourselves

The day before our departure, Nutan Swamiji was a little free and he took us to a congested colony in the village where the Ashram had made sanitary latrine & bathroom attached to each house.  On our way back, Nutan Swamiji told us: “I wanted to tell you about some of our observations regarding you two.  If you can take it in the right spirit, it may help you grow further.  Will you be able to receive it without getting elated or depressed?

“Bunty has a brilliance; he is sharp in grasping and good in expression too.  But, his intelligence will shine better only in the presence of a more generous and noble heart.  Shankar on the other hand has a very good and noble heart.  But he lacks attention and sharpness, which he must try to cultivate.”

Nutan Swamiji then explained what he meant by my kaarpanya (constrictions) by citing and analyzing some events that took place in the train and also before starting from Jamshedpur.  He also discussed about some incidents related to Shankar Bhaiya’s greatness as well as inattention.

We were silently listening to Nutan Swamiji.  The winding pathway with lush green vegetation on both sides had a serene effect on the mind. Was there a deep sadness also creeping into my mind?  I was thinking how these constrictions had entered my mind.  

Perhaps Nutan Swamiji understood my feeling.  He reminded us again: “See, you should not lament over what you lack. Look at your personality objectively with detachment. Think only of the quality to be added and defects to be eliminated – just as you add manure and remove the worms and defective branches while looking after plants.”  

He also suggested that if Shankar Bhaiya and myself could remain a little free of our ego, then we could help each other a lot in this cleansing and growing process.

I was consoled.  My thoughts were given a new turn.  That night I prayed to God: “O Lord! Make my heart pure and wide. Let the vast oceans be within me. Here I am in the association of so many good people. Will I not also be able to become good and generous?”

Ever since I listened to Maa’s diary, I had been praying to God to make me purer and purer.  Maa, in her conversations, had pointed out several times that I have to become more and more open.

Today, when I am leaving for Jamshedpur, I feel that I am being dragged out of my own home.  At this moment I pray to God that I may come here more frequently, and I may live up to the expectations of Swamijis and Maa.

– Neelesh Kumar, April 1995