It would be easy to dismiss the question by saying, “Yes, after a prolonged period of intense austerities and meditation, while I was living at Swargashram and when I had the darshan and blessings of a number of maharishis, the Lord appeared before me in the form of Sri Krishna.” But that would not be the whole truth, nor a sufficient answer to a question relating to God, who is infinite, unlimited and beyond the reach of speech and mind.
Cosmic consciousness is not an accident or chance. It is the summit, accessible by a thorny path that has steps – slippery steps. I ascended them step by step the hard way; but at every stage I experienced God coming into my life and lifting me easily to the next stage.
My father was fond of ceremonial worship in which he was very regular. To my child-mind the image he worshipped was God; and I delighted in helping him by bringing flowers and other articles of worship. The deep inner satisfaction that he and I derived from such worship implanted in my heart a strong conviction that God was in such images devoutly worshipped by His devotees. Thus did God first come into my life and place my foot on the first rung of the spiritual ladder.
As an adult I was fond of gymnastics and vigorous exercises. I learnt fencing from a teacher who belonged to a low caste. He was a Harijan, an untouchable. I was able to go to him for only a few days before I was made to understand that it was unbecoming of a caste Brahmin to play the student to an untouchable. I thought deeply over the matter. One moment I felt that the God whom we worshipped in the image in my father’s worship room had jumped over to the heart of this untouchable. He was my guru all right. So I immediately went to him with flowers, sweets and clothes and garlanded him, placed flowers at his feet and prostrated myself before him. Thus did God come into my life to remove the veil of caste distinctions.
How very valuable this step was I could realize soon after this, for I was to enter the medical profession and serve all, and the persistence of caste distinctions would have made that service a mockery. With this mist cleared by the light of God, it was easy and natural for me to serve everyone. I took keen delight in every kind of service connected with the healing and alleviation of human misery. If there was a good prescription for malaria, I felt that the whole world should know it the next moment. Any knowledge about the prevention of diseases, promotion of health and healing of diseases I was eager to acquire and share with all.
Then in Malaya, God came to me in the form of the sick. It is difficult for me now to single out any instance, and perhaps it is unnecessary. Time and space are concepts of the mind and have no meaning in God. I can look back now upon the whole period of my stay in Malaya as a single event in which God came to me in the form of the sick and suffering. People are sick physically and mentally. To some, life is a lingering death, and to others, death is more welcome than life. Some invite death and commit suicide, unable to face life.
The aspiration grew within me that if God had not made this world merely as a hell where wicked people would be thrown to suffer, and if there is (as I intuitively felt there should be) something other than this misery and this helpless existence, it should be known well and experienced.
It was at this crucial point in my life that God came to me as a religious mendicant who gave me the first lesson in Vedanta. The positive aspects of life here and the real end and aim of human life were made apparent. This drew me from Malaya to the Himalaya. God now came to me in the form of an all-consuming aspiration to realize Him as the Self of all.
Meditation and service went apace; and then came various spiritual experiences. The body, mind and intellect as the limiting adjuncts vanished, and the whole universe shone as His light. God then came in the form of this light in which everything assumed a divine shape and the pain and suffering that seem to haunt everybody appeared to be a mirage, the illusion that ignorance creates on account of the low sensual appetites that lurk in man.
One more milestone had to be passed in order to know that “everything is Brahman”. Early in 1950, on the 8th of January, the Lord came to me in the form of a half-demented assailant, who disturbed the night satsang at the ashram. His attempt failed. I bowed to him, worshipped him and sent him home. Evil exists in order to glorify the good. Evil is a superficial appearance. Beneath its veil the one Self shines in all.
A noteworthy fact ought to be mentioned here. In this evolution nothing gained previously was entirely discarded at any later stage. One coalesced into the next, and the yoga of synthesis was the fruit. Idol worship, service of the sick, the practice of meditation, the cultivation of cosmic love that transcended the barriers of caste, creed and religion, with the ultimate aim of attaining the state of cosmic consciousness, was revealed. This knowledge had to be shared immediately. All this had to become an integral part of my being.
The mission has been gathering strength and spreading. In 1951 I undertook the All-India Tour. Then God came to me in His cosmic form (virat swaroopa), as a multitude of devotees eager to listen to the tenets of divine life. At every centre I felt that God spoke through me, and He himself in His cosmic form spread out before me as the multitude listened to me. He sang with me, He prayed with me, He spoke and He also listened. Sarvam Khalvidam Brahma – “all indeed is Brahman”.