Once I was sitting and talking with my father when he received a call from one of his close friends in India. They talked for a long time. I went into the kitchen and ate some vegetables my father had prepared from his garden along with some garbanzo beans made in the classic Indian style.
During the meal, I could hear some of the conversation. After I was done with the meal, I prepared some Chai and slowly sipped on it. Half hour later they were still talking. When the conversation ended, my father appeared very silent and thoughtful. I asked him what happened.
My father told me that his friend’s wife passed away six months ago and that his friend was very lonely.
“Old age can be very difficult. I was mostly listening to him,” said my father.
“Well, you both talked for a while and I hope it helped,” I said.
My father explained the situation and said, “I don’t know if it helped. We are old friends and he seemed sad and he was reflecting on his life as we talked. He kept saying throughout the conversation that although he had had many friends in his life and had been married and had children and a family, he never really received genuine love from anyone.”
Hearing about my father’s friend, I also became silent. This is the human condition, is it not? We all know the truth of it. We want attention and love but often do not receive it. Many people, as they get older, embittered by their life experiences become sad and cynical.
My father went into the kitchen and started eating lunch. I prepared another cup of Chai and sat down with him. “What did you say to your friend,” I asked my father.
“I did not say much. We just talked,” said my father.
“No, I mean when your friend said that he had never really gotten love from anyone, what did you say? How did you console him?” I asked my father.
My father said, “I told him I loved him.”
“What did he say in response.” I was very curious.
“He said, he knew that. That’s why he called. We are childhood friends. But he still insisted that he really had not gotten the kind of love he wanted from anyone during his whole life,” said my father.
“What did you say then?” I asked being fully engrossed in the scenario.
My father said, “Well, as we were saying goodbye, I told him that love is not something we get, it’s something we give.”
“Love is not something we get. Its something we give.” I remember my father saying that many years ago.
The usual things are going on in many places.
War, hate, and killing of enemies
in order to love, protect, and nurture our own.
Inflicting punishment on others
yet remaining free of consequences
is not possible for us
as human beings or nations;
for the revenge that brings joy
also brings grief.
Michael Bowes is well known to us as an authentic and genuine and a very experienced yogi and a devotee of Sri Bhagavan Ramana. Internationally, he is well travelled and has been to India. He has visited various Ashrams and Gurus and Swamis in both the U.S. and abroad.
Michael has an uncanny ability to see to the heart of the matter and his spiritual insights pierce through the veils of sentimentality and conceptual baggage. Michael is a long term member of the HarshaSatsangh community and his presence has been a gift.
Given below is the second part of a three part story from Michael about his visit to a Swami in India. This is Part II.
You can see Part I at the following link.
By Sri Michael Bowes
Many persons would love to meet their guru. Imagine meeting a Swami of the Shankara Order who was exuding peace, love, and siddhis. Imagine an unknown Swami who, on his first trip to the West attracted a very large following in a very short time. Many persons were convinced that the Swami was an exceptional spiritual beacon. A letter came inviting me to India.
Thinking that I had met a true guru, a person who seemed to be surrounded by mystical events, I traveled to the other side of the earth to be with him in India. But after being there for a short time, and through the grace of the guru, I had already become wary.
The Ashram was situated on a quiet, peaceful farm in South India. The farm was owned by Govindan and his family. There was Mother, his wife, and there were daughter and son. I never got their names – they were Mother and daughter and son.
Govindan had a nice room with a bed and a desk and some chairs. There was a ceiling fan and he had a water purifier there. I would often go there and visit. Mother lived in the kitchen. She slept on a mat on the bare concrete floor. I never did find out where daughter and son slept; but I think that it might have been in the cowshed.
Mother and daughter cooked for us on a wood fire. Sometimes there were many persons there. The food was great. In part one, I mentioned that Govindan, and Shyam and I went to Ramana Ashrama and some other locations; but before we did, I wanted to give Mother a small gift. I also wanted to give something to daughter. I had already given a significant sum to Govindan because they were feeding me and giving me a nice place to stay.
Mother didn’t want to take the money, so I had to leave it on the floor in the kitchen. I also left some money for daughter and then Govindan, Shyam and I left for Tamil Nadu. A couple days after our return, and after the grace of Ramu, the Swami’s attendant called me to his room. Swami was just finishing the morning puja when I walked in. Mother and daughter were there along with some others.
The Swami welcomed me and I paid my respects to all. Mother and daughter were standing and the Swami was seated near the shrine. Swami said, “Mother has something to tell you.” I looked at Mother and her eyes revealed the depth of her emotion. The Swami spoke and said, “Mother wants you to know that she used the money that you gave her and bought these earrings. I have blessed these earrings, and Mother wants me to give these earrings to you and then she wants you to hand the earrings to her.”
I was overjoyed. The Swami placed these teeney, tiny, gold and diamond earrings on a flower, and handed them to me. Then I handed the flower with the earrings to Mother. Mother put them in her ears immediately and she was nearly shining. Daughter had bought a gold nose-pin with her money and so the same process was repeated for daughter. She also seemed quite happy. It was fun for me.
Then Swami said, “Mother has something else to tell you.” I looked at Mother and it seemed that she was about to cry. Swami said, “Mother wants you to know that no one has ever done such a wonderful thing for her. Mother says that men have always cursed her and abused her. Mother says that this is the best thing that has ever happened to her.”
I was stunned. I looked at Mother and I’ll never forget the look on her face. Suddenly I realized – they don’t say her name. She lives on the concrete floor in this primitive kitchen. She and daughter don’t even eat with us. She got this little bit of money and she wants me to know that this is the most wonderful thing that has ever happened to her. I was shocked. I could barely believe this. I can’t begin to explain how I felt.
As everyone was leaving, the Swami asked me to stay. I was really, really sad. I sat down next to him and he said: “Michael, don’t give these people anymore money.” If you want to give someone money, give it to me.”
My very limited patience began to wear thin. I tried to explain that I had given Mother and daughter just a little bit of money and that I gave money to Govindan because he had built a room and was feeding me and everything. Swami said, “Govindan is a retired railway station master. He gets Rupees 1800 every month. Don’t give them any money. If you want to give money, give it to me.” He went on to say that he had some kind of trust set up and that he already had $700 and that everything was all worked out. I told him that I understood, bowed and left the room. I knew that I needed to get away from this Swami; but I couldn’t go home just yet…