— By Arti Agarwal

In the year 2008, I was depressed. “Depressed” is too small a word actually. I am depressed every now and then even now, that’s not such a big deal though. It’s like having a cough or cold, it disappears in 2-3 days. In 2008, I was suicidal. my life was a black hole with nothing but more and more pain getting sucked into the black hole with every passing day.

Someone had hurt me and insulted me real bad and I was wilting from the hurt, losing any desire to live ever again. When I say suicidal, I don’t mean I wanted to kill myself, I never had the courage to do that. But every day I used to sit in my bedroom window and pray to God to please end my life soon because I did not see any point in living. I lived in Mumbai, which meant it was almost always raining – both in my heart and outside the window.

To run away from the hurt, I ran away from home – to the oil rigs, in the middle of the sea, where I used to work. Where there was no place for emotions. Often, in the middle of the night, I would stand on the railing, watching the waves rise and fall in the moonlight, with nothing but water till as far as the eye could see, and wonder how big the world is and how small I am, and where is God. Is He out there somewhere, watching me? Is there anyone out there who can help me ? The lines from a song kept ringing in my head “ You gave me a life, now show me how to live”. My friends and family were in no place to help me & after a certain point I decided to stop bothering them, it pained them to see me like this too, so I kept quiet. I let the work fill up my mind and time. So much so that by November, I had almost 45 vacation days remaining to be used and my manager literally banned me from coming to work for the next few days.

Around the same time, during my travels, I stumbled upon a book by Osho “The Fish in the Sea is Not Thirsty”. I had no idea who Osho is. But I flipped through the book and liked it. I read it on the rig. It made me feel a little better. But it didn’t last. It just made me even more aware of a hollowness in my life. Then I started reading books by Paulo Coelho, which I loved too. But these were some happy breaks from my own empty life, nothing more. Nothing and no one could give me a solution of how to change the underlying misery in my life.

On one such day when I was sent home from office and told to not show my eager-to-work face for atleast a week, my sister called me from US and told me to go to a program in Bangalore called “Kalpataru” where you can ask a certain Swamiji for anything in life and He will grant it to you.

I did not believe in Swamis. I thought they were all fake and talked a whole lot of mumbo-jumbo preachy stuff which carried no relevance for everyday life. But the idea of asking for anything in life kind of stuck in my head and I asked my sister to send me the details. Now that I look back on it, even though I was a highly qualified person and all that, I never questioned how any one Swami can grant you anything you want. She sent me the flyer for Kalpataru. I saw a black and white picture of Swamiji with his brilliant heartfelt smile. ( The same one which I have now put in front of my work desk, which I look at all the time ). Something happened and I told my sis – “I know he is enlightened, I will go see him”. I have no clue what made me say that, and who in the world I was to even know who is and isn’t enlightened. But I booked my tickets and went to Bangalore. I was totally new to Bangalore and to the ashram. I hired a cab for the day (I was rich in those days – with a lot of money and no desire to spend anywhere) to go to the ashram and see this Swamiji.

I was roaming around in the ashram, completely clueless of what is where and while strolling I reached the temple. I wasn’t a temple-loving person in those days. Even as I was outside the temple, I suddenly saw everyone stand still where they were and fold their hands. Someone in an orange robe came out of the temple, right in front of me, with some other people. I had no idea what was going on. In a few minutes, I could guess that this was probably Swamiji. He then turned around, smiled and raised his hands to bless us, and he looked at me too. I didn’t realize it, but I was also standing with my hands folded, standing sort of amazed.

That was my first encounter with Swamiji.

Throughout the Kalpataru meditations I was crying like I would never stop crying and was really thankful for the eye-bands so that no one could know that it was me crying so hopelessly. I was also thankful that no one knew me there. Gnana mhj was conducting the program and I remember asking him some very stupid questions. He smiled at me really sweetly and assured me that I would experience God in the meditation itself. I had blanked out in one of the meditations, and guessed that this must be what he meant. When I went up for darshan, I was really really shy, because some people were standing next to Swamiji. But this was the only chance I had to save myself. I told Swamiji in one sentence about how someone broke my heart & hurt me real bad. He asked me “You want him back?” I told him, “No Swamiji…” Then he asked me, “You want to be healed?” and I said “Yes Swamiji, I just want my life back”. He hugged me and told me, “Don’t worry, you will be completely healed”. I blanked out again, and felt a great calm come over me afterward. All my inner worrying suddenly stopped. I had a throbbing headache but it did not matter. I just knew, if this Swamiji cannot heal me, no one in this world can.

I was completely okey by January 2009. It was almost like waking up after sleeping for an overly long period of time.

Time went by and I went on working with my job, and never found any time to go and see Swamiji again, though I really wanted to. My job did not even allow me to go and see a doctor, leave alone going to see a Guru. People at my work made fun of my spirituality and my rudraksh mala. I just responded to them as acidly as possible and told them to keep their noses out of my personal life.

In January 2010 I decided to quit my job which gave almost everyone a big jolt, since I had a job which paid me up to 4000$ in a month. Everyone in my office mocked me. I was missing Swamiji so much. Just then, one day I subscribed to the ashram newsletter. The very next day, I got an email saying that there was a Kalptaru in Mumbai on 26th Jan! I was overjoyed. That was just a day or two away. I went to the Kalpataru. In my darshan, I just couldn’t find any words. I felt Swamiji already knew me, He is God, & just by seeing me He knows what all is going on in my life. I said “ Swamiji, what can I tell you, you already know everything…” He hugged me and said “Don’t worry, I will take care”. I remember I had a throbbing migraine that day also and I was almost the last person to go for the darshan. I had removed my contact lenses so I was almost blind and I could see Swamiji properly only when I was really near him. After the darshan I was standing on the stage, pretty clueless of where to go… when someone came to help me and helped me down the stairs, because my eyes were almost closing from the pain.

After that day, I never had any more doubts about my job. I quit my job with great joy. My manager asked me” What do u want? Do you want a promotion? Do you want a transfer? Do you want a different job role? Do you want a vacation? What do you want? “. I smiled at him, and said “ I want to quit”. i was not going to barter my life for money anymore.

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And then, just when I had freed up my life to do programs in the ashram, the scandal broke out. I remember March 2nd, 2010. I was completely restless that day, without knowing anything. I don’t watch the news. My sister called me and told me what happened. I was just in pain over what was happening – Why are they doing this to my Swamiji? All he has ever done is good to this world. I already felt that Swamiji was an inseparable part of my life and nothing and no one could change that.

My friends mocked at me. They didn’t just mock at me, they continued to do so for a long time. I told them to disappear from my life altogether. I was infamous for using words like arrows. I had the capacity to make any man feel like crawling into a hole when I start yelling at them. I used this skill to my advantage now. I told these “friends” to never show me their faces again, because if they do, they will be responsible for anything that happens. I can easily scare people. And I did that now.

All through the scandal, I never felt that I was doing anything great or anything like that. I was just standing up for my love for someone who saved my life. I was not going to let a bunch of morons interfere with my life and my love for Swamiji. That is all there was to it.

A lot of other things went wrong in my life in the next few months, and by July, I was yearning to see Swamiji again. I was in one more hell by the time Swamiji came out of prison. One more depression. For almost a week I was just in my parental home, lying in my bed crying all day because my best friend who I was in love with had broken up with me – on the eve of my birthday. Now that I think about it, it was a strong pattern in my life, I came closer to Swamiji every time something went awry in my relationships. My sister used to make me sit on her lap and comfort me. She used to watch Swamiji’s discourses, and having nothing to do in life, I sat with her to see the discourses. It is unbelievable, but even after loving Swamiji for almost 2 yrs, I had not seen even a single discourse of his. I started seeing his discourses and following all the techniques he gave. Small miracles started happening in my life. Now, I was just waiting to attend the NSP, the first one after the scandal.

In the NSP, I had the first most mystical experience of my life & I knew that my life would never be the same again. After the NSP, one day, I suddenly decided to move to Bangalore and say goodbye to Mumbai for good. It was a really sudden decision, with no prior planning at all, and my apartment owner made me pay 26k extra as one month rent for moving out so suddenly, but being close to Swamiji was all I wanted in my life now.

In reality, this story has only a beginning, and no end. So this is the beginning of how one day, one darshan with Swamiji changed my life to something I could never have imagined it to be. I am ending it very abruptly because I realize that I cannot do justice to the entire story by writing it as a note. And the book I have been writing about my struggle needs to see the light of day some day, very soon.