Five years ago, at my aunt's insistence, I drove down to the village of Bidadi, just outside Bangalore. I wondered if the entire exercise had been fruitless. So who was this guru -- this enlightened master -- my aunt was so enamored with? And what in the world was he doing in an obscure little place like this with nothing but a giant old banyan tree and a tiny cottage to show for it? Cynical as I was, the seeker within me was interested and I hoped the trip would be worth it.
As I walked towards the cottage, I saw a handful of seekers sitting on the floor and across them was this young man in his twenties (just as I was then), wrapped neatly in a bundle of saffron. He looked like a disciple waiting for the guru to arrive. My aunt said, "Beta, this is Swami Nithyananda" and I thought, 'This young boy? A swami?' He gestured me to sit down with a knowing smile that suggested he'd read my mind.
"I don't know you. I don't watch movies, but I know who you are. You did a great job helping tsunami victims. God bless you." he said with a smile. I looked at him and asked, 'Can I be honest? You don't look like a guru". He asked, "What's a guru supposed to look like?" I replied, 'Someone a lot older and whose face is painted with the wrinkles and grey of experience.' He smiled gently, "Well, you don't look like a social worker or a spiritual seeker either, yet you are both." That moment on, we spoke like old friends, our conversation flowed with spirituality meandering between the banks of humour and logic. He was funny, yet insightful and irreverent! Overjoyed with my new spiritual buddy, I said to him, 'I think I'll call you cool dude swami.' Despite my aunt's obvious disapproval, he said "You are my friend, call me by any name you want."
SMS for Guru
Over the ensuing years, my mobile phone would often flash 'cool dude swami calling' and a unique, spiritual yet entertaining chat would follow. Then in October, while I was in deep meditation, he appeared in my mind's eye, smiling warmly. I called my aunt and asked her about his whereabouts. She informed that he was in Mumbai a day for a spiritual discourse. Was it a mere coincidence or an SMS (spiritual messaging service) I had received from him about his arrival? When I went to see him, about a thousand people were present and he regaled them with humour, and calmed their spirits with the peace he radiated. No matter what your problem was, when he hugged you, and said 'I am with you' -- you felt a deep assurance within and knew it was going to be all right.
After the spiritual workshop, I met him backstage. His organisation had expanded in the last five years to various countries. Upon the table in his little room, there was a stack of books titled 'Living Enlightenment' authored by him, which had already sold a million copies. 'I said to him "How much you have changed!" He smiled, "I have always been the same, it is just the way you look at me that has changed." I asked him what living enlightenment was and he said, "It is being intense in every moment and responding intuitively to achieve your limitless potential for creativity and joy. It is a constant state of true bliss!" So that was the big secret I've been seeking? I wondered and he he laughed, "No, now you just know of it... to know it, you have to experience it"
His words echoed within me, when I recently drove back to his ashram, like I'd done five years ago. The majestic banyan tree still stood there, but around it had sprouted a huge centre of spirituality and learning, a complex that held and served thousands. I was awestruck with what a man's vision and belief could achieve in a short span. For four days, I attended the workshop, discovering so many facets of myself as my true self. Even in the absolute simplicity of the facilities, I slept in sweet peace and woke up every morning smiling for no particular reason at all... it was divine! I had had my first slice of living enlightenment. In the impatient world of instant coffee and instant noodles, I had experienced instant transformation. As he hugged me and blessed me before I left and I said to him "You are the coolest dude I know, with the warmest heart" and he replied, "You only see in me, what you yourself truly are. " I smiled... and I haven't stopped smiling since.