- Swami Vimurtananda
In my teenage years, I gave way too much importance to the opinions of others. I had this notion that there were always many eyes watching me and my actions, ready to judge and ridicule. Now, in retrospect, it all seems childish. However, back then this fear was real and looming.
My Guru Srimat Swami Tapasyananda Maharaj and his grace helped me realize that this phantom anxiety stemmed from my ignorant belief that the world alone is real.
In 1988, revered Maharaj sprang a sudden question one day, “Can you do Puja tomorrow?”
I agreed enthusiastically.
“Good, in that case do the Special Pooja tomorrow on the occasion of Swami Vivekananda’s birthday,” the revered Swami said.
I was taken aback. While knowing daily Puja rituals, I did not know to perform the special one with homa. I tried to tell him that. However, he vetoed my repeated entreaties and insisted that I perform the special Puja.
All my pleading was of no avail. My eyes welled up. However, the Swami could not be persuaded into changing his decision.
With a despairing heart, I sought Swami Vinayakananda, the then pujari of Sri Ramakrishna Math, Chennai, and told him about my predicament. While seeking counsel, I broke down completely. He tried to calm my anxiety and promised to do all the pre-arrangements for the special Puja next day.
Despite his repeated assurances, I was still upset. I told him, “Maharaj, I know everyone is going to laugh at my lack of preparation for the puja.”
Swami Vinayakananda saw through my anxiety. He tried to motivate me. Yet, I remained adamantly ignorant clinging to my overblown fears of people and their opinions.
Finally, he said, “Do you still not understand why your Gurudev is making you do this? It is his grace. He wants to take his disciple to God, who alone is real. Now, forget everything. Get ready to do the Puja tomorrow. Memorize the mantras and rituals by tonight.”
That left me with no choice. Next morning, I sincerely prayed to Sri Ramakrishna: “Oh Lord, please get this Puja done through me.”
To my utter amazement, the Puja and Homa went through without a hitch. All the mantras and rituals flowed so seamlessly, and I was not even aware that anyone was watching me, let alone worry about their opinions.
After Puja, I went to see my Gurudev to offer salutations. Revered Swami Veetatabhayanandaji was talking to the Swami. He congratulated me on performing the Puja so well.
My Gurudevsaid tenderly to the Swami, “I told this boy to do the Puja. He was not confident enough and I had to push him with a scolding. See the result now!”
Today, when my mind wanders back to that day, I understand why I could do the Puja well that day. I focused on getting it right for God without worrying about the world or its opinions. And that happened because of my Guru’s grace.
Jai Shri Guru Maharaj ki Jai!
31 October, 2020
Ramakrishna Math, Thanjavur