by Monika Penukonda
During the 15 years of living and studying with Sri Kaleshwar in Penukonda, India, I was blessed to have had many conversations while working on the ancient knowledge, editing and writing books with him. Some of this material is already found in books in its edited form. Reading the original dialog gives an experience of what it was like to sit with him. Sri Kaleshwar, who we called Swami or Guruji, was a great joy to be with, he was informal, unpretentious, funny, a captivating storyteller and a wellspring of divine wisdom. His energy was totally infectious.
This conversation with Swami, Philip Lipetz and I, took place on March 12, 1999, late evening, 11 pm, sitting by his dhuni. Swami was 26 years old.
Monika: You were going to tell us about your spiritual life, your life with the saints and experiences that you haven’t told us about yet.
Swami: I didn’t tell that before?
Philip: In the book we wrote about your going to college. The only thing you said was how the shooting star led you to the ashram. You didn’t tell us about your travels.
Monika: I think you’ve been holding out on us!
Swami: What?? Actually, I thought to make it one chapter. When you’re travelling with me in the United States, you can work with me on that. How many types of meditations I did, why I’m doing them, when my real energy started, how I utilized that energy, how I sometimes misused that energy and what result came to me.
Swami: That’s all the stuff I wanted to explain in America. But this is the right time. You have any questions, Madame?
Monika: Yes. I’d like to know about some of the people you studied with. I know that Shirdi Baba came and would instruct you sometimes. But there were other masters that you studied with too.
Swami: Umhum. Actually, I will tell a small experience with my friends. In my college when I was studying, some friends helped me a lot and cooperated with my meditations. On the Full and New Moon day in my meditation process I had go sit in deep water in a well with water up to here (points to his neck) and do meditation. Like 11-12 pm to early morning 5 am. Like four to five hours, sitting in the deep water and chanting the mantras. One the New Moon day I went in the well. New Moon day, you know that? It’s a totally dark day. I was doing a Mother Divine process. On the 41st day I was going to receive a lot of shakti. I have very strong commanding soul power to command on any creation, God creation. Healing snake bites, scorpion bites, the ability to bless, to remove people’s problems. You don’t believe it? I won’t remove problems, Monika? (slyly)
Monika: (laughing) I definitely think you remove problems and… add a few!
Monika: I’m joking with you. Definitely I believe that.
Swami: I’m the number one remover of problems. Anybody’s. I’m removing and removing; it’s like a mountain. (all laughing) It’s already done; I need to dig for the water to come up. I’m digging the well on the mountain to find the water for somebody else. One couple is there, one couple in my life.
Monika: Which couple exactly? (laughing)
Swami: What? Well, it’s my good karma. You want to know the couple?
Monika: I have an idea.
Monika: A big mountain.
Swami: I was meditating in the deepest well. The Indian wells are very crazy to go down. My friends caught my hands (holds his wrist) to put me in the water. For four or five hours they were watching from the top of the well. One day I went with only one of my friends, his name was Gopal. I told him what to do. I gave some sand and red rice like we use here, and some flowers to him. "While I am doing the process, try to put that on the top of the well and throw on my head." If he did not do that I would get a really huge problem. I’m sitting there chanting different mantras, prayers, if I’m not doing it perfectly the water will go up (rise). You understood? At the time I couldn’t stop the mantra, otherwise the water would come up and I couldn’t breathe the air. Not only doing a mistake with the mantra, the 41-days energy was coming and I was inviting some angels. It seems that the people will think it’s just a story. That’s why I deleted it.
Anyhow, I did really hard work. He was sitting on the top of the well just throwing flowers on me. I was chanting, meditating. It was like 3 am. Suddenly he saw a cobra on the side of me. He was very scared! He threw the flowers then ran away shouting, “There’s a cobra, I’m going out! See you morning! Bye bye!” It was a crazy cobra ready to attack on him. Karma. Karma came; it was a testing from the God energy. then the cobra came to the well to find some frogs to eat. It was a really hard time. The water was like boiling, you know boiling? Like a bubbles, what do you call it?
Monika: Bubbling up?
Swami: Bubbling up. The water was up to my eyes. I was in the deep water, huge well. The cobra was coming. It was amazing testing. Then I prayed to Shirdi Baba very, very deeply, “You’re the only one person in my life to protect me.” I was just begging and crying, the hairs were standing up. You understand?
Monika: Yes. (laughing)
Swami: Hairs were standing up! Totally scared, nobody’s there. It’s one of the good experiences. Then, I have no idea what happened. Just I closed my eyes and chanted the mantras about Mother Divine that I was supposed to do at the time. I thought whatever happens, I’m fine. My master can come and protect me; that’s his duty.
Then it started. After five, ten, thirty seconds, I really got a lot of shakti. Like a leaf, like a feather in the air, lifting. Then I got a lot of shakti in my heart. I was supposed to talk with the angels. The angels appeared and I talked to them, then I took some words from them. When I was climbing the stairs, once again a small cobra, a child cobra, was sitting, rounding and watching. I stopped and watched for two minutes then slowly it went into the hole and I climbed up and came out.
The next day night, I was very relaxed and sleeping. I got a really huge, beautiful dream. Baba came, I went to Dwarkamai. He was in his streets asking for food and I was waiting in Dwarkamai for Baba’s darshan. Baba was eating, and I was very, very hungry. Hundreds of people were waiting for him for darshan. He was eating, and I was watching each step of what he’s eating.
Each piece, maybe that piece he’s giving to me! (all laughing) Maybe that piece he’s giving to me. Totally he ate everything, empty plate, empty bowl. Then he washed his hands and threw the water out. When he washed the water away in the bowl, I watched. Maybe there are one or two rice pieces; if I could get that. When he threw it, the birds came; they were eating. I was the first person supposed to go to Baba but Baba was making me wait patiently. He talked to everyone. It was evening, dusk time. I was waiting in front of his door. Everybody went in, Baba was very relaxed. He laid down in his Dwarkamai. Then he asked, “Anybody else?”
“There’s one boy waiting for you since morning without having any food, any water. He’s doing a hunger strike.”
“Oh, that boy, crazy boy. I don’t want to talk to him. He’s under the punishment for up to three days.”
Then I shouted from the outside, “I’m very hungry. What wrong did I do to you to wait in front of your door since morning? Have I done a mistake in front of your door waiting for your darshan? You are so cruel. You have no mercy on me. You’re not giving me a small piece of food. You’re giving everyone prasad and everything.”
Then he yelled at me, “What? What great things did you do for me? What did you bring me?”
“Baba, I’m broke. I have nothing in my hands. What I bring to you is just my love.”
“Who cares your love?” Baba said, “The whole universe have love on me.” Why are you laughing, Monika? You’re thinking on yourself?
Monika: Yes!! (laughing)
Swami: Actually, what you’re doing in your life, seva, that’s more than everything.
Then I said, “Baba, no you’re so cruel on me.”
“Without my permission.” Baba said, “Who told you to go into the water to do that stuff? I was totally in deep trance meditation. You disturbed me a lot to protect you. My attention was diverted to focus on you. Sometimes you drive me crazy. I don’t want to talk to you. Be there in front of my door three days.”
He was yelling; he was very mad on me. He was sitting watching the fire, relaxing. It was really huge and beautiful dream. Is it ok to tell?
Monika: It’s beautiful. Oh God, it’s beautiful.
Swami: The clouds were getting rain. Drizzling was starting. I had no blanket. Baba was watching the fire. The cold started. The rain, small rain is starting. I had no shelter I sat totally in the open. He was in a safe place.
Monika: Safe and warm place.
Swami: Safe and warm place. See, he created the rain. He created that. The rain started 10 to 15 minutes. Actually I wanted to get away from Dwarkamai but my heart said I’m very happy to die in front of his door. No doubt about it. I don’t care. I have a strong willpower. I was building myself up. I sat outside his door. When I was in front of the Dwarkamai gate, the rain was starting and it was very cold. Then automatically tears were coming from my face. Two hours and he was not caring about me. All my fingers were going straight. You understand?
Monika: You were so cold.
Swami: Then after a couple of hours he came and touched me. Whatever I was feeling, very, very tired, very hungry, thirsty, no energy, my face tight, in seconds (snaps his fingers), seconds, he lifted me like a small kid, carried me like this (under his arm).
Monika: Just lifted you up?
Swami: Lifted then just carried me into Dwarkamai and threw me in one corner! (laughing).
Monika: (laughing) Like a puppy.
Swami: I sat in one corner watching him. He takes his beard like this (pulls on his chin). I have total… I can remember totally.
Monika: Totally, what he looked like?
Swami: Yes. He was making his beard like this and he was talking with the fire. From his mouth he was murmuring something. I was not seeing to whom he was talking. I had no idea what he was saying. He was talking a new language.
After everything was done, early morning hours were coming. He came from his duty and wanted a massage. He said, “Come.” Nobody was there; I was a little scared. “Do massage.” Then he laid down his head on a small brick. I was pulling his fingers (toes). The right thumb (big toe) had a long nail and unfortunately, it made a crack.
Monika: You cracked the nail?
Swami: I’m cracking (Baba’s toes) and blood came. I didn’t see it. I was just cracking his toes and giving a foot massage. The blood was coming. He was totally in a deep sleep. I watched 30-35 minutes. Blood was coming. ‘Oh, what am I supposed to do? I’m in a big problem. Oh, my God!’ Then my dress (taking a piece of his kurta to his toe)… what we call it?
Monika: You cleaned his toe?
Swami: Then from the fire I took ash. I gave him a treatment with mantras and everything. I was praying to the angels to heal it. (laughing) I put all my attention on his scratching. The angels came in front of me, standing outside his door. The angels had no power to come inside, to touch his skin, to heal him. The angels had no dareness. They said, “Hey, he’s the big boss. We have no dareness to touch his body. (laughing) Are you crazy to try to heal him?”
‘Oh, my God, please help. Give some idea to heal, help. I don’t want to get problems.’ I was like that, you know, very eager. You know eager? Anxiety. How, how, how, to do it? Then, he opened his eyes, “Don’t worry. I just wanted to see how much love you have for the master. How much you’re scared of the master. I made the bleeding myself. I’m not that sensitive, my body doesn’t have that type of sensitive skin.
My heart was coming down like from an earthquake, a flood, coming down, cooling down. Those feelings, again when I think on that, the same feelings. Oooh. Then I said, “Baba, don’t torture me, my life. This is enough. Whatever torturing you want to do you can give the slap directly on me. Don’t do this crazy stuff.”
Babas said, “To make you mentally, psychologically, soully, prepared to face anything, it’s important; it’s my dharma. You’re one of the best, one of my best students in my life to make my name and fame, make my energy spread throughout the whole universe. That’s why I called you here.”
“Oh, thank you, Baba.”
It was early morning and the sun was up. “It’s time for me to take a shower,” Baba said, “I’m going to the river Godavari.”
“Am I coming with you Baba?”
“No, you can’t do that.”
“No, Baba. I want to come with you, to help you.”
“What do you want to help me?”
“Just I want to walk with you a little distance.” It’s like a huge process in the dream. Then I walked.
“Ok,” he said, “you sit on the rock. I’m going in the water and come back. He went one step in the water. Again he came on the rock then he vomited his…digestion?
Swami: He vomited. When he was vomiting. I was very, very scared. It was weird. What happened to Baba? What am I supposed to do? He is very old. Maybe he’s sick. What happened to him? I was watching. I was making my eyes blink and watching. Then totally he vomited. Then one water pipe was there and he was washing in the water. Then again all his intestines, everything he sucked everything...
Monika: Right back in.
Swami: It was going inside. Everything went back in his stomach. Then he gave one what you call, a voice? Like after the food?
Swami: Then he gave a burp. Then he went back.
“Baba, you said you wanted to take shower?
“Yes, I took shower.”
“What shower, Baba?”
“Just I washed my karma.”
“No, the people’s, what I received from the people. What I digest in my stomach, I wash that.”
Oh! He IS. He is here. You understand? He’s marvelous. I was walking and he was talking. “To be in spirituality. To be walking with Sai is really beautiful. If you walk in my front definitely you will walk your way. You can’t look at me. You must walk by my side, always watching me. Never lose it any time in your life. Any lifetime, never lose that. You walk, by my side. Side-by-side. Don’t walk in back, don’t walk in front.” Then he told many, many things, about my spiritual powers, how to receive, how to contact, how to heal the people, how to take the karma. It’s a little confidential. In one dream. That’s why it was a really a big dream in my life. He changed whole my life. From that day onwards, I was totally a very, very simple person. You know simple person? Just I’m very happy to sleep under the tree. I have no fear about cobras, no fear about scorpions, no fear about anything in the world. You know fear?
Swami: In the dictionary, in my life, the fear word, after that dream, I have no experience of anywhere.
Swami: Nothing. Just he washed it. Even though death is coming very close, just watching, ‘Wow, great!’ Like that resistance, he gave that. It’s really amazing. Beautiful.
Monika: So before the dream, when you were in the well and experiencing the cobra, you were definitely afraid…
Swami: Yes. I cried. I wanted to run away. But at the time, I totally threw myself on my master, “Ok, you take care.” From that day onwards, happy. Nothing.
Monika: So you’ve never experienced fear after that?
Swami: The people and their lives, I worry about them. That’s not fear. You understand?
Monika: You think about them and are concerned about them.
Swami: And worried, really worried.
Monika: But you don’t have any fear any more of anything. Cobra bites?
Swami: Nothing. Actually, Baba’s message is also there. Who really follows Baba, fear can never touch them. Fear is always away from them. They’re very happy, whatever happens. That’s fine. Great. Lovely. Like that.
Monika: Totally surrendered.
Swami: Totally surrendered. It’s really an amazing experience.
When I started this ashram, it was totally thorn trees, crazy, like a small forest. When I started this ashram, I was walking from my village to here, midnight to 2 am. Construction was running day and night, 24 hours. Cleaning everything, the columns, pillars, everything. I was walking in the street carrying the Baba statue. You’ve seen inside there is a small Baba statue?
Monika: The small one on the Baba stage, yes.
Swami: You’ve seen that face clearly?
Philip: It’s beautiful.
Swami: It’s really marvelous. The statue has a lot of shakti. Unbelievable shakti. Many times, hundreds of times, I held that small statue in my old mandir and meditated. Touching his third eye and getting shakti and giving my shakti to him and taking the shakti. Like play. He is very happy playing with energies. When I was carrying him, I decided to bring that statue and to put it here. Hundred of devotees were coming; we had a picture, but no statue. I want to put a small statue and do puja at the time the Aarati was happening. I wanted to put the small statue in the hall. Who comes, many devotees do prayers and give flowers to the small statue.
I brought the plate with the small statue and walked the 25-minute journey from there to here. We walked slowly. I wore a long robe. I was walking carrying the statue. After five minutes his weight started increasing. I couldn’t carry it. It was too heavy. It was changing becoming too heavy. I crossed the Mother Divine temple. There’s a really huge Mother Divine temple in the village. A beautiful Mother Divine temple. I was walking, I crossed Mother Divine and he became very weight (heavy).
Baba was laughing, “Ok, carry me. Carry me.”
I said, “Baba, please, I can’t lift you. I can’t carry you. It’s too heavy. I want to put you down.”
He was laughing. “Hey, man. See who’s there in front of you.”
I was meditating and watching him and walking slowly, step by step. I was not looking clearly. Mother Divine was standing in front of me! With 18 hands, like 250 (eet tall, Her eye was like this cot, each eye. Her tongue was like (sticks his tongue in and out) up and down.
Monika: Oh, my God!
Swami: Her teeth were like elephant legs. You believe it?
Swami: It seems like a story.
Monika: No. No.
Swami: I told my Indian devotees. Many people had seen that.
Monika: At the same time?
Swami: No. No. After seeing that, they vomited blood then they died.
Monika: It was Kali.
Swami: Kali. Hundreds of people died in Penukonda after seeing that Kali. Do you believe it?
Monika: Yes, I do.
Swami: One year back also they died.
Monika: They died just seeing Her?
Swami: Just seeing Her. Night times they were walking, and were very healthy. Suddenly they saw. What! (snaps his fingers) Done. Listen. She’s there. She has hairs on Her face and Her hairs are like this much (points to the 2” branches in the fire). Honestly! This much. Like a Full Moon day, when the moonlight is so dazzling. She’s like that. Incredible terrible.
I said, “Baba, what karma did I do in my life? Why did She come in front of me? What am I supposed to do? Maybe She will eat me?” I didn’t think She would really eat me, I had no fear in my heart, but what was I supposed to do?
Then She said (speaks in a deep voice), “Where are you going? This is my kingdom. 700 years back the emperor and many, many powerful holy saints prepared me. They made a lot of shakti and they released me to here to protect their emperor’s kingdom, the fort. Whatever enemies come, just killing them and protecting the people and their happiness. That’s my duty. You’re coming like an avatar, a powerful person. Definitely you’re creating a lot of problems for me, bringing a lot of disturbance to my shakti energy. For 2000 years it has been my duty, dharma, to protect this fort. This fort is mine. No another powerful person can enter here."
“What? Baba, She is saying something. Are you listening?” (all laughing)
Baba said, “I don’t care. You handle Her.” He was teasing.
“Ok Mother, what am I supposed to do now? Am I supposed to turn back? Can I build the ashram outside of the fort?”
“Yes.” (in an even deeper voice)
“Ok, when should I start?”
“Anytime. Don’t come inside the fort.”
Then I started some prayers to please Her. “It’s too heavy to see you with this much face. Why can’t you come down? I want to talk to you. Why can’t you turn into a small face. It’s too heavy to me.”
“Why should I turn for you? This is my real structure. This is my karma; I am on duty. I’m walking all around the fort.” She said no.
Again I asked Her pleasingly to come down (become smaller). Then with the Vedic mantras, She came down. She was really driving me crazy but then I had a conversation with her with my mantras and tried to remove her. I tried pushing Her. Tried. It was like throwing bubbles on an elephant. You know bubbles? Pssschooo. She’s like huge.
In my heart, also one of the peaceful characters there is Mother Divine. But it’s highly impossible to control that shakti and remove Her from this fort. It was the emperor Krishnadevaraya that intentionally prepared that shakti. It took him a hundred years. His father, and father, and son. Three lifetimes they made one shakti and released it to protect their whole kingdom, the people, their happiness. Many, many powerful saints made Her. For one person to make Her come down, to remove Her, it’s very hard.
Then I told Baba, “Baba, it’s not the time for you to tease.”
He said, “What! It’s not a big deal.” Then he became weightless, like a feather. “Put that plate aside.” I put him on the side. Then he came out as a spirit. Do you believe it?
Swami: I had no idea what he was talking with Her.
Monika: Did you see his spirit? Did you see it?
Swami: Umhum. The energy. In my life, it’s an unbelievable, marvelous experience. I can’t say it to anybody. I can’t share. I shared it only with a very few, not this much detail. I have no idea what language he was talking to Her or what She was talking to him. I’m just watching. Twenty minutes then one deal happened. (all laughing) I could feel that! Then I asked Baba, “What’s happened, Baba?”
“That’s none of your business,” he said. “You carry me.”
“Oh, Baba, you’re so crazy. I’m living here permanently. I’m also one of the characters living here. Anytime She can come on me, She can do battle with me. Sometimes you never care about me. What is my position? You’re just throwing me in the desert without any water.” You understand? Like helpless.
“You’re bringing me in the desert and giving nothing to me. You’re bringing me to this place. She’s there, and She definitely will drive me crazy.”
Then Baba taught one mantra to handle and talk to Her – a real energy process. Then I started to talk to Her. After that, I saw She was really, really so beautiful. Mother Divine. Then She showed me, “I’m everything.” How difficult it was to prepare a form of Mother Divine like that to protect their children and their kingdoms. And She sometimes… I had a lot of discussions with Her after that. They made one form and left it to totally handle the kingdom.
That’s why Krishnadevaraya was the number one emperor in the world. THE number one palace person, number one in India, especially Andhra, Karnataka, Maharashtra, some states. He’s the top person who made unbelievable temples. Even Tirmala, Tirupati, Lord Venktateshwara temple he made. Hampi, Penukonda, Chandragiri, many, many temples. Only he made them. He was that type of beautiful soul who prepared temples. It was a gift of his life to prepare them.
So like that, I talked to Her. She was really beautiful. I changed Her to be like that – not so much face. Very beautiful, very beautiful and not walking around anymore.
Monika: Oh, She’s not doing that?
Swami: I made Her in the bottle then I kept it. Then I’m keeping it with me to make good things happen in my devotees’ lives. I protect Her.
Monika: Is She happy about being put that way?
Swami: Umhum. Then Baba was laughing, “If I gave a small clue to you then you go huge.”
Monika: That’s what Baba said to you?
Swami: He’s very proud of me. What I’m doing. Then I carried him. I made him sit. From that day onwards he started his Sai Kingdom. Hundreds, thousands of people coming, the universe. Some western people, many people, coming to spread Sai’s messages through me. Everything is Baba’s grace.
Philip: How old were you?
Swami: At the time, I was like 20. People will think this is crazy?
Swami: What I told, this stuff?
Monika: No. It’s an amazing story.
Philip: It goes with everything you’re teaching us about the sixteen powers.
Monika: It’s beautiful. Beautiful. It’s really important to hear the spiritual experiences of masters. Muktananda wrote his autobiography with all his spiritual experiences. It helped a lot of people. Most people haven’t had experience of Mother Divine; hearing your experience makes it very real. It’s beautiful. Please tell us more.
Swami: What is the time now?
Monika: Fifteen minutes before one o’clock. Are you getting tired? You didn’t sleep last night.
Swami: Like this story, seven or eight more.
Philip: That’s what we need for the book… everyone wants to hear.
Swami: Oh, they’ll love that. The real fort is there.
Monika: It’s a beautiful story.
Swami: When I was meditating, I can tell tomorrow. When I was meditating on the rocks in my cave. Two stories are there. What happened in the cave, who came, what we talked about. In this mountain a 500 year-old man there. On this mountain a huge house is there in a cave. There are millions of Shiva Lingams there. Naturally formed rocks, Shiva lingams.
Monika: There is a cave in the mountain?
Swami: In the cave, in the deep cave, there is a Mother Divine statue.
Monika: Have you been in there?
Swami: With my soul. Are you sleepy?
Monika: No. I’m fine. But you haven’t slept; you didn’t sleep yesterday.
Swami: Are you going, Philip, in the downstairs in the cave? (He instructs Philip to spend time meditating in the Shiva cave.)
About Monika Penukonda, Sri Kaleshwar said:
“Monika belongs to the Divine Mother, Kanaka Durga’s, feet. She is a Divine Ma on the planet. She’ll walk and give a lot of wisdom and clarity to bloom wisdom. This lady will bless millions of people on the planet. She’s going to do it.”
Monika is the author of Kaleshwar, and a modern rendering of the Sri Sai Satcharitra, The Wonderful Life and Teachings of Shirdi Sai Baba. She was the editor of Sri Kaleshwar’s books, including The Real Life and Teachings of Jesus Christ and Shirdi Sai Baba - The Universal Master.