Terry was Sri Kaleshwar’s personal attendant, a soul mate, and ‘godfather’, as Sri Kaleshwar would affectionally call him. His stories share invaluable glimpses into the life and actions of an incredible saint. They are priceless gifts and tools for all students of spirituality.
At the Feet of an Avadhut:
Life Lessons Learned Serving Sri Kaleshwar
By Terry 'Sundaram' Clark
I went to India as a student in early 1999. In those early years, Swami gave a lot of healing techniques, and taught a lot of information. I was learning that knowledge and made recordings and listened to them like he asked us to. A year or so into my time there, he told me my time for meditation was done, it was time for seva. I was still really interested in being a student. I wanted to help the world, I wanted to help people.
For a while he left me a little bit in between. When I first started doing seva for Swami I was still participating in some of the student programs. If there was a program, typically everyone would go. For a short time, I wasn’t sure if I should try to go, but then he directly said to me, “You are seva only, guru seva.” I was no longer a student. I was no longer included.
There were actually times when I went to a talk, and he would look at me and say, “Why are you here?” I was like, “I am trying to participate!” Then he kicked me out. It became clear, this is my path, to take care of him. Did it matter that I still wanted to be a student? My feeling was, this is what he chose for me. At least I knew about Venkusa and Baba. Nityanandaji told me about that, he helped me to see early on that this was a viable path I was doing! But it was not what I imagined when I came to India. I was familiar with being a student, I was familiar with learning knowledge. One part, I really liked it. I gave that up without a clear understanding of how it would look or what it would be like.
When I started upstairs in the Jesus Temple where Swami lived and worked, I was still trying to do the moon meditations, to hold onto some practices. It wasn’t long before I just couldn't do that. I asked Swami about it; I was getting overcooked by trying to do everything. His answer was ambiguous; he didn't really tell me that I didn't need to do it. I would often still be on duty with him, so it was physically impossible. Or if I had been on duty all night, I was just too tired physically to do it. Swami didn't specifically exempt me from the processes, but it just became clear that I could not take care of him and keep up with doing processes.
There were times where everyone in the ashram had to stay in their rooms. It could be because VIP’s were visiting, or other saints, and didn't want Westerners out and around. You would get a message for that. My feeling was yahoo! I get a night off, then the message would come-not you! And I would have to go on duty. Maybe it wasn't such a big deal, but when we got a message that everyone needed to do something, it took me some time to get comfortable with doing something different and feeling like I was missing something.
Doing japa all day under the tree was more my idea of what enlightenment would look like. Instead, I got the chaos of running around behind Swami, cleaning his bathroom, getting him food and water, dealing with some students' craziness. Sometimes, of course, I wished I could be out under the tree enjoying that peacefulness! Sometimes other students would complain about their japa and I would think, ‘Oooh, I would love to have hours of japa to do!!’
Developing Soul Capacity through Challenging Situations
I could see Swami’s human side, and also his divinity. I didn't put him on a pedestal, but I didn’t treat him as a friend. I had that attitude from the very beginning. Very seldom would Swami and I just kind of hang out and chat. That wasn't part of our relationship like it was for him with some other people. Someone told me he interpreted how I treated Swami as being intimidated by him. I don't think I was intimidated, but I did see that even though he interacted with the world in a normal way, he was not a normal character. For me, it was always important to never lose sight of that. I wanted to stay on that level in all my interactions with Swami. I never wanted to lose that perspective of who he really was while having close proximity. For me it was a question of respect. That's also why I never questioned what he did. I didn’t know why he did things the way he did, but you could see the results. They spoke for themselves. That is why I know that his pushing me to the edge of my comfort zone was in my best interest.
Swami would deliberately push me into uncomfortable situations. He told me early on that he would intentionally create suffering for me because going through it would enable me to receive greater healing energy later. It was like I was building my bank account for the future. It’s a really advanced concept to understand.
I had to get comfortable not being in control, not knowing where I was going, or how I was going to get there. This was a very big part of my training with him. Swami would give me ten or more things to do every day. It was impossible to do them all. I just had to make my best decision as to what was most important. Inevitably he would be upset about one or more of the things I hadn’t done. I had to learn how to say, “Do you want me to do it now?” He wasn’t going to explain everything and take care of all of your worries. You are never going to be comfortable. You are always flying by the seat of your pants and on the edge of disaster or success. For me, that’s how it always felt. It was learning to live on the razor's edge. The hammer could drop any time. I could only do my best and I had to learn to be okay with that, even though it seemed always to never be enough.
I knew that it was a huge gift that Swami was giving me to be able to serve him and be around him. But sometimes, it was grueling. Swami could go three or four days without sleeping. The thing about serving him was, he would say goodnight and go to his bedroom. It would take me about an hour or an hour and a half to clean up when he was done. Then when I would have his rooms all clean, I could go. I would lay down, and he would be up an hour later. If he slept for two hours, I got one hour. Then it would start again. Yet, it was an incredible opportunity to push beyond my limits, beyond what I ever thought was possible.
Some people ask why you need a Guru. Well, I can say personally, I would never have gone as far as he pushed me on my own.
I had been a spiritual student for many years before I met Swami. I had some capacity and I meditated a lot. And yet when I met Swami and interacted with him, I saw that he pushed all of his students to increase their capacity to hold the energy. As healers, we all need that too. To be able to really draw energy, and to be able to direct it, and to able to heal with it. And he would consistently push you beyond your capacity, to increase it. He was pushing us and pushing us. Then much later after his Samadhi, I realized that my capacity was so much greater than before I went to India. That I can remain balanced in really stressful situations.
For me, to be standing in front of Swami and have him ping you -- compared to anything that happens to me now, someone giving me a hard time, even the worst thing -- it’s like… not a big deal!
Terry 'Sundaram' Clark
began his studies with Sri Kaleshwar in 1997. He lived at the ashram in Penukonda India, from 2000 until Swami’s samadhi in 2012. For 11 of those years, he served as Swami’s personal assistant, serving and taking care of Swami not only in Penukonda but during Swami's travels around the world. Early in Terry's time at the ashram, Sri Kaleshwar made him promise that he would take care of him as long as he was alive. Swami would affectionately call Terry “Godfather”, and one birthday manifested a diamond ring for him saying, “You are a diamond in my life.” Terry lives at the Divine Mother Center, serves on the Board of Directors, and is Manager of Temple Buildings and Grounds Development.