We are happy to announce Chapter Three from a new book by Terry Clark, At the Feet of an Avadhut, Life lessons Learned Serving Sri Kaleshwar, which we will be sharing in installments.
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
Chapter Three: Starting to Serve Swami
After going back to America, I returned to India, this time indefinitely.
Swami began to say in public that he was going to put me to work in his office. I just laughed, every time he said it. I thought he has to be joking. I am a construction worker. There were people who were professional personal assistants, who knew how to use a computer, who know how to type. I do not have any of those skills. I thought I was safe. I simply couldn’t believe he would actually put me in the office.
But then he did.
He put not only me, but Thomas as well. He was almost as unqualified as me. The first day we just sat in the office. Thomas knew how to use the computer a little and knew how to type -- with only two fingers -- but that was a lot more than me. I didn’t even know how to use the fax machine. I thought, well, at least I can keep the power going. At that time, we used a crude UPS to keep the electrical power going. I thought, I can do that, I can make sure the power keeps going. But correspondence, typing, anything else, forget it.
The first day we were in the office, Swami sent one of his Indian staff to give us a message. He came and told us that Swami said, “You have to wear your underwear today. Take all your clothes off and just be in the office in your underwear!”
What?? This was our first day on the job!
Swami was sitting in his swing so we immediately went out to talk to him. We asked him about the message. “Swami, one of the staff told us that we have to wear our underwear. Why is this? Why do we have to do this?”
“You didn’t thank me!” he said. He was serious. He wasn’t serious about the underwear, but he was like…you didn’t thank me! He made the point that he was taking care of us, and we didn’t acknowledge it. I was really surprised. I can say, I was still so shocked that he put me in administration office to begin with. I just could not believe that I was in the office; running the ashram was a big deal.
But after some months, we acclimated. We somehow worked out our systems. It got easier and easier. Everyday more and more we interacted with Swami.
Just as we were feeling confident, after six months or so, Swami took us out of the office.
From the beginning of my time in the office, I saw and interacted with him daily. My appreciation for him grew. He was a spiritual person with a tremendous amount of energy and could do miracles. And yet, he had to do the daily stuff of a normal human. The staff needed to get paid. The bills needed to get paid and he needed to meet with people often, sometimes all day. He had to see to all of those things day after day.
At the same time that he put us in the office we also started serving him as personal attendants. During the day we would work in office, in the evening Swami would call and we would be on duty taking care of him.
I started with guarding the door of the living room at night when Swami was with students. Security at night was first, then helping in office, then security in morning. That was more structured, he specifically wanted me to be there in the mornings. Students would wait in the Jesus Temple and try to ask Swami questions when he had just woken up before he even got to go to the bathroom! He didn’t want people to still be there in the morning. He wanted me there in the morning to make sure no one was waiting outside his room.
He didn't explain things, and he would seldom have conversations with me. It was clear I was there to protect him from the other students as well as the Indians. Especially the Indians at program times, I had to stand in the doorway and block them sometimes. It was a big adjustment for me to have to be aggressive to do my dharma.
In the early days after the Jesus Temple was built, it was open and anybody could go up there whenever they wanted to. You could even sleep there at night. Swami was living on the ground floor in his apartment behind the Baba Temple. He also had an office upstairs in the Jesus Temple. Often he would work at night and invite people in to the office. He began requesting me for security upstairs. This meant I got to sit outside the door and watch people who came and went. I would hear the laughter inside the room, often roaring laughter. Everyone laughing and having a great time on the other side of the door. I would sit there and try to stay awake. Once in a while, I would get invited in. This was something I figured Swami used as a way to get to people -- to work on their egos -- who got picked, who got to go in to his living room at night. Usually, it wasn’t me, but it didn’t bother me. Guarding the door didn’t seem like much of a job, it was just a bunch of students going in and out. It didn’t seem like I did much, but he wanted me there, so I did it.
Often, Swami would call a group of students he was working with to meet with him. They would sit with him in his office or his living room. Normally I would sit in the other room where Swami couldn’t see me. Partially I did this in case his family or one of the Indian staff called and I had to answer the phone. It was easier to answer the phone if I wasn't in the same room as him. The other reason was that I was around him everyday. The other students didn’t get to be around him like that, so I felt it should be more for them.
Another part for me was, I knew if he wanted to do anything with me, if he wanted to push me in any direction or put his attention on me, I was around all the time. I was a fish in a barrel, there was no escape for me. So there was no use needlessly putting myself in front of him. Besides, I didn’t have to. It seemed that no matter where I was, he knew exactly what I was feeling. He didn't need to be obvious, he knew what I was thinking and experiencing even if I was in the other room.
Sometimes Swami did call me to his office to speak to me personally. I always found this a little traumatic, especially if he told me to sit down. My response was uh-oh, I am in the hot spot. Especially if he sat down and somebody else was serving us, then I would be worried. It’s not that easy to have the master as a mirror reflecting back things you don’t want to see.
Soon after I had started in the office, Swami told me that my time for meditation was done, and that from now on that my path would be purely seva. Of course, this turned out to be mostly true. I would still try to participate in programs. I would still try to learn the yantras. I would do the meditation processes when I had time, but my full focus changed to serving Swami. And so the rest of my time in India during Swami’s life, I purely was a seva character.
Terry 'Sundaram' Clark
is an Associate Minister, Board Member, and Manager of Temple Buildings & Grounds Development at the Divine Lineage Center in Laytonville, CA since Sri Kaleshwar’s mahasamadhi in 2012. In addition, he is our machine whisperer and stealth wildlife photographer of our bear, fox and bobcat. He spent 12 years in Penukonda, India serving as Sri Kaleshwar’s primary personal attendant.