We are happy to announce Chapter Two 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 Two: Many Lifetimes Together
Near the end of the power journey bus trip I had an interview with Swami. I was alone with him for the first time. He told me then that we had many lifetimes together, and that our connection was really close. He said anytime to just call on him and he would be there. At the end, he asked me to stand up so he could do a healing on me. He held a rose on my third eye then manifested a silver ring with a white stone then he held up my right hand and put it on my little finger.
Some time after, I was asked to help with Swami’s phone. Swami had just gotten a new phone from Singapore. It was a long-range cordless phone. One of the Indian staff had hooked it up but couldn’t get it to work. Swami wanted it fixed. Somebody had asked me to look at it since they knew that I was a mechanic. It was the first time I went into Swami’s living area. The phone had a little black power box that had a switch for different voltages. It only took me a few minutes to figure out they had put it on the wrong power setting and blown out the power cord. I told them what they did. Swami came in the room and was checking on me. I had talked to him before but I felt a little odd being in his living area. I told him I believed that the only problem was the power supply, and if they replaced that that the phone would work. Of course, Swami was hoping that I could have fixed it right away, but replacing the power supply was easier than replacing the whole phone, so he was happy about that.
I began to have more interactions with Swami. He put Monika, Johanna and three other women and me in a group that was going to have darshan with Mother Divine. Somehow I became the group leader. At the time, Swami would not let us record anything he said. One person was responsible for taking notes of his talk and instructions. After he gave the process, we would get together as a group and go through it. If we had any process questions he would answer them right away. He knew that confusions could just escalate if he didn’t answer them.
Since I was the group leader, it was my job to go ask him our questions. This was the beginning of my interacting with him. I would go to him with our group process questions and talk with him. It seemed that we had questions for even the simplest instructions he gave, so my interactions with him increased. It was a little intimidating for me to have to find him, and ask for his time and ask these questions. I wasn’t happy about that, but we needed to do it. So I would find him and I would ask the questions but then he would have me stay. Sometimes he would feed me or give me water. It seemed so strange that he would keep me around; I just wanted to go back to the group and tell them the answers I had gotten. The longer I stayed, the greater the chance I would forget the answers and have to go back and ask him again. But it was really beautiful to have the opportunity to spend time with him. I knew it was a gift.
Soon after I started my meditations out under a tree in the northwest of the ashram. Swami started doing Vaastu improvements and was knocking walls down then putting them up. He would knock down a wall then put another up one a couple of feet away. Every day he would come out of the Mandir and often would walk across the courtyard in front of me and look at me. Mostly I would have my eyes closed because I was meditating, but I could feel him pull on me. I would open my eyes and then he would always wave…and then...phew! — away he would go.
He would also show me he knew what inner experiences I was having. He would give teachings during program and say something like, if you do this mantra, you can have these kinds of experiences. Often as he would describe the experience he would look directly at me. Many of the things he described had happened to me. I had no idea why I had those experiences, I had no explanation. Then in a public program he would indirectly or very directly describe it then look at me. It was like he was checking to see did you know that you had this? Were you aware of what was going on? He was showing me that he knew exactly what was going on in me. He wouldn’t ask me or talk directly to me about it. He would just let on indirectly what had happened. For me, it was clear that he knew exactly what experiences I was having without ever talking to me about them. Talking to me was not necessary.
I began to feel when Swami was thinking of me. In the very early years we were doing a process repeating a new mantra that Swami had given. Mostly other people were much quicker about learning new mantras than me. I was a little slow, it took me longer to learn mantras especially if they had new words.
Swami had called everyone into the Baba temple to ask people how many malas [of japa repetition] they had done. Some people had done quite a lot. I had done a fair amount, I was applying myself, but there were other people much faster than me. Swami was going around the room asking people to repeat the mantra. He was appearing to get angry. He would ask, “How many malas did you do?” Then he would ask them to say the mantra. He was upset, telling them that they were doing the mantra but they couldn’t even pronounce it? The thing was, if Swami put his intention on you then you really couldn't remember anything. Even if you knew it perfectly, it would fly out of your head. For me, it was always scary when he did that. The worst thing was, I could feel it in my solar plexus when he was thinking about me or was going to call on me. It was really not pleasant.
I got that feeling in my solar plexus and, sure enough, he asked me how many malas I had done. I told him. Then he demanded I say the mantra. For me, it was always terrible for me to have to speak in public. Of course, I couldn't think of anything. I couldn't even remember Om. My mind was completely blank.
There was a German woman sitting off to my right side. I didn't know her. When Swami called on me, she had her head down with her hand in front of her mouth, resting her forehead on her knee. She just said the mantra word by word. She started with Om, and then she said it slowly word by word. She would say a word and I would repeat it. I said the whole mantra perfectly. The look on Swami’s face was priceless. He was truly shocked. It was one of the few times I saw that kind of surprise on his face. I got a real kick out of that.
Marriage Lilas Begin
The story begins like this. My girlfriend, Michelle, had never met Swami, but had heard me talk about him. She knew I wanted to go to India and stay, I thought maybe for a couple of years. Michelle decided that she wanted to go with me. So, we flew to India. Michelle was only going to stay for a short time then head back to America.
In Bangalore, we got a driver and car to take us to the ashram. At that time, Swami wasn't that well known. Our car drove in and literally drove right in front of the Mandir. Swami was by the dhuni and walked over to us. He asked me, “How long are you staying?”
I said something kind of funny like I am staying until you throw me out. Swami seemed to really like that. I had saved up enough money that I could stay in India for an indefinite amount of time. Other people would come but only had enough money to stay for a finite amount of time. For me, it was different because I had enough money to stay as long as I needed. He liked that. I didn't realize how much, but later he commented on that.
There were only two westerners in the ashram besides me and Michelle. The hottest part of the year in India is around Shivaratri. That year some people had gotten really sick, so Swami sent all the westerners away. I had expected that Swami would have senior students that would teach, I didn't have an expectation that Swami would teach anything. The way he had talked about his ashram I assumed he had tons of people there.
Swami spent his time at his swing or out by the fire. Having no expectation that he would teach, I just started meditating.
But then, soon after we arrived, Swami asked us when we were going to get married! It was a big shock. It was the last thing I wanted. MIchelle had five kids, house payments, car payments and was living in suburbia. I liked her and lived with her before going to India, but my whole idea of going to India was to purely dedicate my time and life to spiritual pursuits. Swami had said that the only difference between him and us was knowledge; he knew certain things that we didn’t yet know. I wanted to pursue that. The idea of getting married was completely contrary to everything I wanted. I had enough money saved up to live in a third world country for a long time, but to help finance Michelle, it wouldn’t be anything. I tried to understand what the whole idea of marriage meant. To me, it certainly meant financial responsibility; you have to work and provide for your family. That did not go well with my plan of living in India.
Swami then told Michelle if she came back for Guru Purnima in July, we would get married. He didn't ask me. She was super happy. I was nervous. I didn't really want to do it; I couldn't see any point to it. It didn't make any sense, Why would I get married now? Swami said something to me about when diving in cold water, you just have to practice a little then jump. That wasn’t a whole lot of help.
So we got married at Guru Purnima in July.
Then one day not long after that, Swami was at his swing giving interviews. He was about to leave the ashram to go to Laytonville to do a program and pretty much everyone else in the ashram was leaving to go back to their countries. In our interview, he let Michelle choose how long we were going to be in America. She chose to invite my brother and mother for Thanksgiving in America. This was September, so I was going to have to stay at her house until November. Swami had told Michelle that if we got married she could choose how long we would go back to America for. I never got a vote in the decision. If he had asked me, I would have gone to America, been there for a week, then come back to India as quickly as possible. Truthfully, I felt like a pawn in the whole thing and wasn’t very happy about it.
Swami was sending people off and telling them they needed to go back to their countries and start meditation centers. He gave general instructions but similar for mostly everyone in the group. He was very serious about starting these centers. My intention was to come back as soon as possible. I knew my dharma was in India, not in America. It was clear: I wasn't going to stay there and start a meditation center.
After he got done giving his instructions, he asked a few people what their plans were when they got home. He gets to me, and I tell him, “I’m going to ride my motorcycle, drink beer, and smoke cigars.” The look on his face! He had a grin that was priceless.
Michelle hit me she was so embarrassed. It was one of those few times I saw him shocked. I was kind of happy about that.
There’s more to come about this lila. Although it took me years to understand what Swami was doing, I did come to understand and appreciate what he was doing. I eventually came to see it as a blessing in my life. It especially taught me about the depth of surrender and how that brings you close to the master’s heart.
Meditation Became Easy
I meditated for years before I met Swami. Meditation was always kind of a struggle. Once I met Swami it got super easy. The very first time I meditated with him I went into a deep trance. I thought I made a mistake. Then he asked the person next to me what had happened. He said he started doing the mantra and went into a deep trance. He was in a deep trance until Swami approached him physically. When Swami did that the person came out of the trance and was then conscious that Swami was there. What Swami said was you had that experience because we have a deep soul connection. You recognize me. I freaked out because I thought I fell asleep and was petrified that I had made a mistake. In fact, the guy sitting next to me described my experience. It was exactly what was supposed to happen.
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.