Freedom and bhakti may be some of the tenets of the spiritual path, but for Swami Shivchaitanya, the path has also opened up a wellspring of skills and talents.
One of the first skills that bloomed was the skill of performing the Rudra pooja.
The story begins when Swami Shivchaitanya first did the Art of Living Course (Part-1) in February 1998 after his sister signed up his form and left him no choice but to attend.
“Nothing much happened on the course, there were no big miracles, or so I thought. But after doing the Sudarshan Kriya, I had a firm conviction that this was what I wanted my life to be involved with, though I did not know exactly how or what at that point”.
Soon, he found himself doing the Part-2 course in Rishikesh, where he first met His Holiness Sri Sri Ravishankar.
“The course got over on a Sunday and I was to leave on Monday. As I was leaving, I heard what sounded like strains of mantras and went to the hall, I found Guruji meditating to a tape of the rudra pooja”
Sri Sri has a practice of perfoming the Rudra Pooja every Monday morning.
“I liked the sound of it and so I kept my luggage on the side and sat down to meditate. At that time a small desire arose, that I too should sit with Guruji and do the pooja. Soon after, I forgot about it.”
After Rishikesh, he went for another advanced course and become an art of living teacher. In May 1998, he moved to the Bangalore ashram.
“A few months later, Guruji suddenly asked if I had done my Upanayanam (the sacred thread ceremony).” Since he was born a Brahmin, he had. “Then he told me to learn the Rudra Pooja. At that moment I remembered the desire that I had in Rishikesh to learn the pooja.”
“I learnt it within three months and the same year I found myself sitting next to him in the navratri poojas. I realized then even small desires are remembered and fulfilled on the path.”
Since then Swamiji has continued doing the poojas, both in the ashram and while travelling.
Meanwhile, after he moved to Bangalore, he busied himself with the ashram administration, working with different departments including housing, kitchen and sound supervision.
“Again,one day, out of the blue, Guruji told me to learn how to cook. At that time, I only knew how to make tea.”
“A few years later, on a tour to Kolkata with Guruji, he sent Girish, his cook back to Bangalore and that left only me to cook for him. I hadn’t learnt much even then. But that night I took it as a challenge. And so when I started cooking, I felt that the cooking was happening through me.” He could not even taste what he had made until Guruji had eaten. “But when I tasted the food after Guruji’s meal, I found that everything I had made: roti, dal, rice and vegetables, was very good.”
Likewise he found himself living the knowledge of the spiritual path through the situations he faced in the day-to-day life at ashram.
“Anger dissolved; I learnt the skill of acceptance, and importance of living in the present moment. Every time I faced a difficult circumstance, I immediately thought of the knowledge that I could apply, of what Guruji would do in the same situation. And when there are responsibilities to be fulfilled and people waiting, there is no other option but to apply the knowledge.”
Slowly he began realizing that he was becoming more and more centered. “Good or bad, it stopped affecting me. Even if does, I quickly regain my sense of balance.”
Swamiji says he learnt a lot, including managing large gatherings of people, from his travels with Sri Sri.
“Another important thing is that I have never said ‘no’ to him. If he tells me to do something I do it. Even if I don’t have the right skills or know-how, I say,’ yes’, and give it my best and the required skills simply manifest. That’s how the learning happens.”
That’s how he learnt to play the Dhol.
“When I was in Gujrat, I used to dance or take part in drama. But I have never played any instrument. But one day, in a satsang in Baroda, there was no one to play the dhol. I just happened to sit next to it and the teacher told me to play. I said I didn’t know how, but he told me play however I could. I simply started and I played quite well. I still play the instrument and people tell me that I’m quite good.”
Swamiji’s only vision in life is to follow the instructions of his Guru and do what he says.
“Everybody on the planet should come and meet Guruji and feel his presence at least once in their lives. Then they will understand that life is not limited to the mundane. There is so much more to it.”
His mantra is simple: be free and be happy. And that is possible only when material life is suffused with spirituality; then there is balance.