(by an Ashram resident)
During the first year that I lived in the Ashram I was in charge of a larger department that also included the library (then located in the present-day Om Namah Shivaya or meditation room). As was the rule at that time, it meant I was also in charge of watering the plants around that building. In those days, long before there was Swamiji’s Samadhi temple, we would gather in the puja hall in the evenings to perform guru puja (astotra) to Swamiji’s photo and padukas. This would be followed by bhajans and then the evening Amman abhishekam immediately after that. Every evening at least five ashram devotees and also some children would join the bhajans and they would sing beautifully, accompanied by a harmonium and tambourine. It was a devotional and intimate atmosphere and I used to love joining in.
Fifteen minutes before the bhajans were set to start, I was approaching the library, which is more or less opposite the puja hall, when I felt an overwhelming desire to join the singing. I was still dressed in my clothes from that afternoon’s work and before going to a puja we normally take a shower and put on fresh clothes. I thought I might just have enough time to rush to my room and refresh myself. However, seeing the library, I also remembered my duty to water the plants that day and I wondered what to do: should I join the bhajan singing or water the plants? If I watered the plants I would not only be late, but I would also be hot and dirty and I wouldn’t normally go like that, but I really, really did want to go…
Both were good activities and, thinking that I couldn’t do both, I pondered for a while about what would be the right decision. Finally, I decided to let Swamiji decide! That would be best. I had the feeling he would probably advise me to join the bhajans, since Swamiji likes us to join in such spiritual activities. I closed my eyes and asked in my mind: Swamiji, what do YOU want me to do? The answer that came to my open mind was: water the plants! I was a little surprised, but then Swamiji also likes us to perform our duties. I didn’t question where the answer came from, but took it as Swamiji’s answer. So, I immediately ran to the hand pump, grabbed a kudam (a large plastic pot) and started pumping water and running back and forth with the kudam until all the plants were watered. While doing this, I was suddenly overcome by a very deep devotion for Swamiji and my heart was inundated by a blissful wave of gratitude that he was my spiritual master. I felt like I was floating on this wave of gratitude and happiness!
When I had finished watering all the plants it was just past the starting time of the guru puja. I put down the kudam and looked up. Right in front of me on a bush hung the most perfect, luscious, dark pink hibiscus bloom. In that moment I wanted nothing more than to lay this perfect flower at Swamiji’s feet in gratitude for his existence and for his being my guru. I reached up to pick it. But then, with my hand already on the flower’s stem, I paused. Wait, I thought, right about now someone will already be offering flowers at Swamiji’s feet in the name of everyone gathered there in the puja hall… how then can I run in and, in the middle of this communal ritual, go and personally offer my own flower at his feet? Impossible! It wouldn’t be right, it would even be selfish and disrespectful. I reluctantly left the flower on the bush but still ran into the puja hall anyway. My heart was already worshipping Swamiji and it would feel good to see such devotional worship being performed through the guru puja. The scene that greeted me when I entered was very unusual!
Since the Amman abhishekam was performed right after the guru puja, the same person always performed both. They would pick many flowers and most of them would be used for the Amman abhishekam, while 22 would be put aside for the guru puja. When I ran into the puja hall, the devotees were already seated in front of Swamiji’s chair with their music instruments at the ready. It was past the time when the guru puja should have started. The lady who was going to perform the guru puja and Amman abhishekam had prepared everything and yet she was standing there at the front in a nervous way, peering down the puja hall, past the devotees sitting there, at the entrance, as if desperately looking for something or someone. As I came in, she immediately called out to me as if I was the person she had been waiting for: “Oh!! Could you please, please help me? I don’t have any flowers for the guru puja, it would be so helpful if you could pick them!” I looked at the stage, where everything was ready for the Amman abhishekam. The bowls were full of flowers. I looked at the group of devotees seated for the bhajans. She had not asked any of them, or gone herself for that matter. Yet none of that seemed to have entered her mind. She had delayed the start of the guru puja for ‘lack’ of those 22 flowers! At first I was stunned…then I started laughing inside! Oh, Swamiji, I thought, when it’s called for, you create a way, a kind of magical compromise, to make something happen despite it normally being impossible! I grabbed the basket she held out to me, ran outside and headed straight for the hibiscus bush. The first flower I laid in the basket with delight in my heart was the one I had so badly wanted to offer to Swamiji and which would now be laid at his feet after all!
This small but profound experience taught me – not only that Swamiji and the spiritual life are filled with humour! – but, more importantly, that if we are sincere in our communication with Swamiji or the Divine, God or Swamiji can and will make things that seem impossible happen. If needed he will create a miraculous way where none can be seen, and one that is good and works for everyone involved. So, no matter what difficulty we face, we should never think that there is something that God or Swamiji cannot do. He is more powerful than we can imagine, and the ways and solutions he finds can be very creative. Swamiji named his Samadhi lingam ‘Kurai Teerkum Shiva’ which is Tamil for ‘Shiva who solves problems’. Whatever problem it is, small or serious, don’t think of how Swamiji might solve it. Just hand it over to him and he will do it, if need be in a very unexpected, unimaginable and creative way.