I belong to a sampradaya called 'swayamacharian' in the Vaishnava tradition. It implies that an individual can evolve spiritually with the guidance of the eldest member of the extended family. This concept probably would have worked in earlier times, but today it is difficult though not impossible.
I was thus conditioned from my childhood and, therefore, had no positive response to the guru tradition. My concept of a guru was akin to an agent or a broker. This was reinforced by my reverence for Ramana Maharishi who reached God without any intermediary. Of course I failed to reflect on the yawning gap between a born saint and a lowly person like myself.
Not only did I not believe in a guru, but I was quite critical about people following a guru. I could not understand their psychology. God is available to everyone and guru is also a human being. A direct route is preferable any day to an indirect route which takes a longer time and more effort. This was my logic. Besides, I felt only people who did not have a warm, supportive family go to a guru for moral support.
My life was flowing well. I had a good husband, two sons and a strong circle of family and friends. My work with the mentally retarded and my studies were fulfilling. I was following my dharma to my satisfaction. In fact, I was very proud of myself for what I perceived as my goodness.
In May 1994, my whole life shattered. My elder son, who was twenty-five years old, died suddenly leaving a big void. I was like a mad woman and felt death was the only solution. All my knowledge of karma theory, Gita and Upanishads did not come to my rescue. There was a big gap between theory and practice which could not be bridged by my effort.
I wanted to die but did not want to kill myself. So I started neglecting my health. At this point, my yoga teacher, Dady Billimoria, asked me to go to Munger to have darshan of Swami Satyananda and Swami Niranjan. I did so out of respect for him, but with a mental block, thinking that no human being could do anything to assuage my grief. My only hope was to leave this body and take another incarnation. For this I needed Divine intervention.
I came to Munger and had darshan of Swami Niranjan. He is fourteen years my junior in chronological terms, and this restrained me from prostrating to him. I just seated myself in front of him like a block of wood. In the course of a conversation, he told me, You have no control over your prarabdha karma but do utthama purushartha now. Suddenly a miracle happened. My suicidal thoughts evaporated instantly and whatever vedantic knowledge I had at an intellectual level started seeping into my emotional and functional level. I could not believe in such an impact caused by another 'human being'. This was the turning point.
Gradually, from negativity I came to a neutral stage, doing my duties mechanically while waiting for my natural end to come. With the sprouting of faith in a 'spiritual human being', I took mantra diksha and later karma sannyasa from Swami Niranjan, accepting him wholeheartedly as my guru.
My painful experience took on a different dimension. God took my son which was due to my karma, but in exchange, to help me weather the shock, he gave me a guru. This incident had a spiritual impact on me. Otherwise, I would have remained involved in the transitory pleasures of this world, taking an infinite number of births without making any progress towards the Lord, our ultimate goal. Now, slowly but surely, I realise the purpose for which I was born, as a human being with free will and discrimination to reach the source beyond the dualities of this world.
My guru, Swami Niranjan, is leading me towards the goal and I am functioning as an instrument of the Lord, not claiming doership as I was wont to earlier. There is now inner peace in spite of the harsh external reality.