My love story started when I was nine. My extended family had come together at my grandfather’s funeral after his sudden death. At that time, little did I know that death in its finality has a way of opening a spiritual doorway for the living. All I knew was something terrible had happened and everyone was talking about God.
In the darkened rooms of my grandfather’s house, God’s name was whispered in desperate prayer, lamented too, even cursed outright. The house had become a revolving door to priests with their spiritual reassurances, “It’s God’s will.”
And visitors, with their teary-eyed condolences, “Dada, is with God now.”
“Who was this God?” I wondered. This seemingly benevolent being who had come down on my family like a tornado, leaving grief and heartache in its wake. And yet, somehow, it was a good thing.
Day by day my fascination grew and one day, after listening to another story about God’s awesomeness, I finally asked my aunt, “Who is this God?”
And, most importantly, “How can I meet Him?”
Handing me a 108-bead rosary made of Holy Basil wood, she told me if I repeated the name of Krishna one million times on it, I would see God.
|The Broken Rosary|
I believed my aunt. I completely, 100% believed her. At nine, I could barely wrap my head around the number one million. All I knew, was it was a really big number and I had to get there fast.
The family soon dispersed and slowly settled back into the routine of daily life. The God talk ceased but my communication with Him had just begun. As my parents slept, I stayed awake, furiously repeating Krishna’s name on my precious rosary at a speed that would put an auctioneer to shame. One million was a really big number and I had to get there fast.
I was so compulsive in my quest to meet God that chanting became a nightly ritual. One morning, my mother found me bawling. I cried to her that all my efforts to reach a million had been squandered. By mistakenly falling asleep the previous night and missing a chanting session, my count had reset back down to zero. She smiled and reassured me that it all still counted and I should continue my practice. That I did, with even more determination.
As years passed, two things happened. The speed of my chanting slowed down and I fell hopelessly in love with Krishna. In meditation I would savor His name and feel it flow through the cells in my body. My breath became barely perceptible; time had no meaning. A white light appeared in my mind’s eye with an image of Krishna in the center. Maybe He’d felt my yearnings or was amused by this little girl’s crush. It did not matter, for when I closed my eyes, He was there.
Scientists claim meditation stimulates neuroplasticity which rejuvenates the brain. Gurus preach that it gives the practitioner special supernatural powers called “siddhis.” From my own personal experience, both are correct. Meditation improves the brain’s cognitive ability and unleashes its latent potential. Science has only scratched the surface of the brain’s potential.
Through meditation, my math skills improved drastically as did my memory. I also believe it kept me sane during a tumultuous childhood characterized by warring parents. Meditation enhanced my intuition and manifestation ability. The one thing it did not heighten was my discernment. Discernment comes only through life experience.
The “siddhi” of manifestation is close to the law of attraction that states you call into actuality all your desires either consciously or subconsciously. Combine this ability with the lack of discernment and you have a recipe for a very unusual life path.
That’s how I found myself on a plane to Moscow at the age of 18. I wanted to attend med school, only not in my home country, India. That longing steered my life to the Soviet Union where I lived for seven years, studying medicine in Russian. The Universe gave me exactly what I’d asked for. Clearly, I hadn’t been very specific.
The Soviet Union was the land of many firsts for me. For the first time I lived away from home in a tiny dorm room shared by roommates from countries I could barely identify on a map. I dissected my first cadaver and auscultated my first patient. I tasted my first meatball, drank my first sip of alcohol. I fell in love for the first time and felt the sting of my first rejection. And, for the first time, I stopped meditating for days in a row — my mind filled with scientific facts, to do lists and skepticism. The white light in my mind’s eye disappeared, along with the image of Krishna, and I didn’t even notice.
Seven years later I returned to India, feeling like a stranger, as stifled by traditional Indian values as India was unimpressed by the cynic I’d become. Sometimes I would rant at Krishna for making me unhappy. After a year of struggling to fit back in, I left India once again for America, this time as a runaway.
When you run, you never outrun the issues you’re running from. I tried to conform to the American way, but somehow I never felt quite at home. No matter how well I did in my medical career or how many friends I had, something was missing. Krishna had fallen off the radar. The only time I communicated with Him was when I threatened to never speak with Him again unless He fixed some life issue I was going through. Somehow He always did.
Even though I did not see it, Krishna kept in touch with me. He manifested Himself through actions so subtle that in their effortlessness they were never attributed to divine intervention. Like the time I walked into a dying patient’s room and diagnosed her rare condition without any data to support my diagnosis. That moment saved her. Or the time when my car skidded on ice and I missed a head-on collision with a semi by a hair’s breadth. That moment saved me.
My life in America seemed perfect on paper. But only on paper. I’d read and closely followed all the instructions in the manual of life that were supposed to bring me happiness, but it continued to elude me. I’d become just another spoke, turning in the wheel of society. Eventually, I had enough. I was miserable and my soul cried out to Krishna.
One spring, in my search for answers I decided to try something different and found myself driving to a shaman. I’d run across his information online and scheduled an appointment. Doubts and fears about the absurdity of this situation filled my mind: A physician driving to a shaman to find happiness. Right!
I got on his table and he started working on me. Theta healing is what he called it. I don’t know what the shaman did or how he did it, all I know is an hour and a half later, I got off his table and for the first time in my life my mind was completely void of thought. The past did not matter and the future was not mine to worry about. My mind had come to a grinding halt and I stood in the present moment, in the NOW. Energy started rising up my spine and my body contracted in waves of pleasure. I didn’t question it, or resist. I felt as though I was noticing life for the very first time. My eyes were finally open. I got home and stared at the ocean for hours in awe. I felt an incredible feeling of love, and realized the fundamental essence of life is love. I sat for hours in the stillness of being. Nothing had changed and yet everything had changed. I had awakened.
I would be a liar if I claimed to have found a happy ending at that moment and never looked back. I looked back plenty over my life. Awakening is a process. You’re never quite done. You awaken over and over again as you burn through conditioning. I had built a fortress around myself with bricks of false beliefs and old traumas plastered together with pain. The moment of awakening kicked open the door, but there was still work to be done. All my life, Krishna’s light has filtered through the cracks and crevices. As bricks toppled over, more light entered.
I burned the manual of life. The should be, has to be, must be were the source of my misery. There are really no rules and no way life is supposed to be. There is nothing to reach and no place to go. Life is about experiencing the journey.
Slowly, I crawled back into Krishna’s lap and dusted off my rosary. Universal knowledge started trickling through during meditation and it became easier and easier to let go. I started understanding the metaphors in spirituality and the fundamentals of science. They say the same things about life and existence even though their languages are so different. One poetic, the other formulaic. I understood that the brain is an inhibitor keeping us asleep. Through meditation it can be trained and unlocked. It holds many secrets.
I yearned to see the image of Krishna in my mind’s eye as I had in my childhood. That is the intention I put forth at a meditation group, one evening, as I jokingly recounted to the group how as a child I had blindly believed I would see God once I had counted one million. My intention was to see Krishna, even as a fleeting image. As I settled down to meditate my rosary snapped in my fingers. I brushed this off as a random event, even though the other practitioners joked that maybe I’d finally reached my million.
I closed my eyes and heard a pop inside my brain. Then everything dissolved into brilliant white light. My being had no more barriers. There was no body, no mind and there was no me. Time had no meaning. I could have been there for a second or for eternity. The I-Me had become one with the I AM. The light was conscious, intelligent and It was everywhere, in every single atom of the Universe. It was the Universe. I dissolved into the Omnipresence of God — The Creator, Brahman, the I AM. Finally, the drop had returned to the ocean and I had become one with Krishna.
A few days later, still reeling from my experience, I picked up my broken 108-bead rosary and counted the beads on each side of the breakage. On one side there were 27 beads and on the other 81. Both numbers add up to 9. I’m born on Nov 9th and I was 9-years-old when I started using my rosary. Nine is also the number of completion!