By Swami Samvidaananda Saraswati
I didn’t know I wanted a Guru, let alone to live in her house. But from a young age I knew I wanted… something. I was looking for something I couldn’t find in the choices that were presented to me. I was told that when I grew up I could be a ballerina, teacher, wife, mother, secretary, nurse.
Then I met Swami Nirmalananda Saraswati. She is a Guru, a spiritual teacher. She offered an additional option: I could be enlightened. She taught me about the Self, the Divine essence of my being. It’s not just of my being, but of your being. Your essence is the One Divine Essence that is being everything that exists, yet beyond everything that exists. The One is called Self. Because when you experience the One, you experience your Self. There’s only One, and it’s you.
Swami Nirmalananda (Gurudevi) doesn’t simply teach you about the Self. She gives you the experience of your Self. And she promises that one day you will never not know your own Divinity. You won’t merely have a glimpse of your Divine Essence; it will become your living experience. You will BE the Beingness you are. You will recognize everyone and everything that exists as another form of the same Divine Beingness. In this tradition, this is called Self Realization. It’s also called Enlightenment.
How can Gurudevi make that promise? An ancient yoga text explains:
Gururupaaya.h — Shiva Sutras 2.6
The Guru is the means and the goal.
The Guru is the way by which you can know your Self and become enlightened. Only if someone has something, can they give it to you. If I wanted to give you a cookie, I’d have to have a cookie to give. Gurudevi is a knower of the Self, so she can give that knowing to you. She has the ability spark an inner awakening in you, so that you know your own Self. The inner awakening is an initiation called Shaktipat.
A Shaktipat Guru is extremely rare. This initiation is her way of serving mankind; it is her gift to you. Once your inherent Divinity is revealed to you, you can’t go back to not-knowing. The pain and despair of feeling small, separate, and alone can no longer bind you.
At first, you can easily fall back into the old, limiting patterns in your mind. They tell you are small, that you are “less than.” But when you apply yourself to the practices, especially meditation, you dissolve those limiting patterns. Meditation by meditation, you have experiences of your Self.
You experience being happy, whole, fulfilled, peaceful, joyful, blissful. These become new Self-made patterns in your mind. Thus your mind will no longer block you. So you must do the practices. Once you receive Shaktipat initiation, your enlightenment is guaranteed. But you play a part in how quickly it will happen.
And so, I live in the Guru’s house. It’s called an Ashram. One reason I live here is that it’s an option. Gurudevi could live alone. But from her unending generosity and dedication to supporting others’ Self-Realization, she established her Ashram. She chose a home big enough that she can invite people in. And she created a daily structure filled with yogic practices: meditation and chanting and seva (selfless service). This structure ensures you are never too far away from your Self.
I live here because I’m dedicated to doing the practices that will get me enlightened. I’m dedicated because I’m motivated. Beneath everything else I’ve done in my life, there was a feeling that something was missing. And there was: my Self.
I also live at the Guru’s house because I want to give back. I want to support her and the organization she has created to give this inestimably precious gift to the world. There’s no amount that I can give that can equal the gift of my Self. But I try.
This doesn’t mean you have to live in an Ashram. Of course, it’s the purpose of a human life: to become Self-Realized. It’s your personal destiny. But you can experience the truth of your own being while you continue to live your life. You can meditate, you can know the Self, you can be Self-Realized. And you’ll continue to live the same life, with your same family. You can do the things you’ve always done.
Except… you’ll be happy. More than happy, you will know you own Divinity wherever you are in the world. Whatever you see, you’ll be looking into the mirror of your Divinity all the time. You get to choose if this is something that you want. If you do, Gurudevi can help you get it.