A Sadhana Retreat

Swami Dharmashakti Saraswati

Bhagawati Babu’s village, Pathan Dhodgi, was finally chosen for the retreat. His family were old landlords of the region and Satyavratji had visited his place many times. It was situated in a desolate jungle, but only the first four miles were hard to traverse. In the summer one could go by bullock cart but in the rainy season one could only go by bicycle or on foot. Bhagawati Babu had requested Swami Satyam many times to visit his place. It had everything one could ask for – a huge house, a big retinue of servants, and all the necessary amenities.

Swami Satyam would be accompanied by only seven people – Vishwaprem and her uncle, Harsinghani, Satyavratji and his sister Annapoorna, and Basanti, her younger sister Ratna and her friend Bharati. Swami Satyam did not want a big crowd there, although local villagers would be welcome for satsangs on the weekend.

Swami Satyam came to Nandgram in April, and in May we went to Bhagawati Babu’s village. We travelled thirty miles by bus till Bandha Bazaar. There two bullock-carts had come to pick us up. Traversing four miles through dense jungle, we finally reached Pathan Dhodgi. We had a tour of the entire house and after lunch we settled ourselves into our rooms. Then we went for a walk in the jungle. The hills and the streams reminded us of the Himalayas. Away from the hustle and bustle of the city, this place seemed to be a haven of peace and tranquillity. In the evening, the villagers would chant the Ramayana and other bhajans and kirtans.

Everyone’s sadhana began progressing along paths directed by Swami Satyam. I would practise most of the asanas, including sirshasana, the headstand. Swami Satyam took a good look at my headstand and told me to practise it for five minutes. Then he instructed me to perform purascharana, mantra sadhana. I had to complete japa of one hundred and fifty malas daily. He gave me detailed instructions for the purascharana – how much time to spend in japa, how much time in rest, and so on. He anointed me with a chandan tilak and, giving me his blessings, told me to begin my purascharana.

On the first day, the japa finished by 10 pm. I continued the japa the next day. On the third day, an intense, flaming light emerged from the meditation picture. The light periodically increased and subsided in intensity. Soon the heat became unbearable and I could no longer continue my japa. On the fourth day, the light became stronger. I experienced great heat and discomfort. Suddenly a wave of fear swept through me. I started crying and went to tell Swamiji about it. He told me to rest for an hour and then recommence my practice. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t finish even one mala that day.

Then Swamiji told me to practise japa in the company of others, not by myself. Even then, the moment I would close my eyes, I would begin to experience strange things. Finally, Swami Satyam said, “Terminate your anushthana. Just do likhit japa, mantra writing, and swadhyaya, self-study.” Even that proved hard to do. I would begin to cry uncontrollably as soon as I started any practice. In the end he told me to stop everything.

The fifteen-day retreat finally came to a close and everyone returned to Nandgram.

Published in Mere Aradhya