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
Inner Attunement with the Master
“My guru became my all-in-all, my home and property, mother and father, everything. All my senses left their places and concentrated themselves in my eyes, and my gaze was centered on him. My guru was the sole object of my meditation and I was conscious of nothing else. While meditating on him, my mind and intellect were stunned and I had to keep quiet and bow to him in silence.” -Sri Sai Satcharitra
The practical part of how to take care of Swami was the easier part to explain to new attendants. The energetic part of interacting with the Avadhut was harder to explain to people. Everything went by his energy. You could do the same thing two days in a row and one time it would be a home run out of the ballpark, the next day it was totally inappropriate, and that just depended on where he was. To have a sensitivity to interact with him in a way that didn’t disturb him -- that’s an art. That requires an internal connection, you have to sense where his energy is and be in tune with him. That is such a big part of the master-student relationship, the attunement we have with the master. That was the most important part of my work with him, and it is a key to understanding how to win in the Avadhut energy.
Swami never talked to me about what he was doing, with his own process or with students or anything else. He didn't tell me where he was going to go, it was up to me to know the sounds of the ashram and to figure out where he was and when he would need me, and to just be attuned to him through my consciousness. There's a rhythm to the ashram. In the evenings there would be bhajans, and then arathi. When I was upstairs on duty Swami would never tell me, I’m going downstairs to give a talk. I would be cleaning the bathroom and notice they stopped singing, which means he was down there. So I would run downstairs. I had to pay attention every minute to what was going on around me, as well as listening internally.
When I was off duty I would mostly not go to the Mandir, because if he saw me he would often call me on duty! One day I was in the attendants’ room and there were two new attendants downstairs. They were asking me questions and I was like, no! I need to go! I don’t want to be here, I need to leave. They were nervous about interacting with Swami so they kept asking me questions. Of course, he opens the door from upstairs, comes partway down to the first landing, and asks for four items. I tried to step out the door before he saw me. It was clear that the two new attendants didn’t understand a single word he had said. I stepped back in, I repeated back to Swami what he asked for. The attendants just looked at me like, how did you do that? It was years of training, often asking for a similar thing, and you have to have an ear for what he is asking. Sometimes I just didn’t see that I had that much training but then when I saw someone new struggling I could see it. But as much as understanding his actual words, it was the attunement to him, just being able to understand where he was and what he needed.
Part of this attunement was an inner state of mind, and part of it was simply paying attention to him.. One of the funniest things for me was the time I learned how much I relied on being able to look at him to know what he needed. There was a time when my glasses were getting repaired, so I only had my sunglasses. Swami would say something but without my glasses, I couldn’t understand him! I had to walk really close to him to understand him. I realized how much information I got from him visually, very little of it was actually hearing him, purely when looking at him I would understand what he wanted. Without my glasses, I had to get within about ten feet of him, which he wasn't used to. He got super irritated at me!
When I was on duty in the early days I sat on the floor near the doorway of the Jesus Temple and Swami would be in his Northeast bed. He would be laying out there and make a gesture with his hand, which meant that he wanted incense. He wouldn’t say anything, he would expect me to be sitting there watching him and noticing his hand. He had another motion for turning the sound up. He would be laying on his bed and make these simple hand gestures and expect me to see it and to do what he asked. He preferred not to have to say anything. I could feel he would get a little annoyed if he had to tell me what he wanted. He wanted me to know what he wanted, and typically he would seem irked if he had to tell me with words! His attitude towards me was like-you are going to make me say it? That was repeated numerous times, by the time he had to say it, it was too late. The higher the energy went, the more he expected you to just know, so he could just look at you and you should just do it. But, what does that take? You have to pay attention and you have to be quiet. For me, it was always about just watching him, even if I didn’t understand what he is doing, just be watching. Try to be one step ahead of him.
Often in my interactions with him, he wouldn’t say if I was doing something incorrectly, I would just feel it. He would make a face or give a look, and I would know. So part of the attunement was being sensitive to the subtle feedback he was giving me.
Learning to be around Swami was really about how to be with Mother Divine; it's completely unpredictable, you never know what will happen. There are certain things you have to do to handle that energy. The most important thing was that softness, that open heart, that sensitivity to him and to where he was in the moment. You would get a feeling of when you could get away with things and when you couldn’t. When could you ask him things, when was he open to interaction and when it was inappropriate. In a really short interaction, you could tell right away if it was the right time or not, and if it was the wrong time, you could not back out fast enough! But if it was the right time, he would be receptive. There would be times you could have twenty questions, he would answer every single one and ask for more. You could never corner him. Any time you wanted to interact, ask him questions, anything, he always had to feel that it was up to him. You could never push him to make a decision, to answer questions. It would not end well if you tried to command on him, his consciousness was the commanding consciousness. It was really a training to always surrender to that.
To hear your intuition, to hear the master’s guidance, you have to be in silence. Your mind has to be quiet. Your mind is a bullhorn, but the master is standing behind you whispering. You have to learn to become quiet so you can hear him. Serving Swami forced me to learn to be quiet, both internally and externally. He liked when people around him were peaceful and walked gently without disturbing anyone. It demonstrated their inner silence and awareness.
As a mechanic when I was young, there were certain problems I couldn’t figure out. Often the answer would come when I was quiet. Not when I was working on it trying to think about it. In the evening, after work, I would get an intuition about what it would be, then I would try it. I can say that mostly the intuitions were right. You learn that when that intuition comes you need to pay attention to it. How do you strengthen that? By acting on it. Not just that you heard it, but if you actually act on it, then your intuition gets stronger, more consistent. It’s like a muscle, the more you exercise it the stronger it becomes, I had to stop thinking about it, stop hammering on it, just let it go, and then it would come. If you exercise restraint of your mind by meditating or being in the silence, that cycle just quickens. For me, with Swami it was just a quickening of something that already existed.
The other side of listening was that every time I went against my intuition around him I got in trouble. I could feel it I was doing something wrong. He never missed it if I went against my intuition. He always did something that made it apparent that I wasn't getting away with it. For me, the part he was strengthening was the ability to listen. He didn't have to say you could do better, he just acted on it. As soon as it would happen I would know it, I knew better. He was extremely consistent with that. If I did something and had the intuition that I shouldn’t be doing it, he confirmed it. Even with small things, like my clothes. If I wasn't comfortable with the clothes I had on, he would tell me to change them. There was nothing wrong with the clothes, except I didn't like them. It's a small thing except once again I am going against myself. He would feel it and point it out.
Early on, another attendant asked Swami many personal questions about her life, and he seemed really open to answering her. I always had the feeling that would not be appropriate for me, but one time I asked one small thing. He didn't say anything but he gave me a scathing look, I said ok, I just went against myself, I asked him something I knew I shouldn't ask. He didn't make a big deal about it, but he did look at me like, you know better.
The Quiet Voice in My Mind
Throughout my time on duty, Swami didn’t really spend much time talking to me or teaching me things directly. That started early when I was doing sadhana under the tree. He would walk by me on his way to check on the Vaastu of the ashram while I was sitting under the tree doing japa. I would feel him inside, calling me. Then as I would look, he would be walking across the garden waving at me. He didn’t stop, he just would go by. Sometimes he would just smile and continue along.
Doing japa is developing inner silence. You get your mind under control; you get it quiet. When you are quiet, you can hear the master. It just continued that way for me. This was my main sadhana. Sometimes, when I was on duty, I would just feel, ‘I need to do this now.’ Generally, it was always correct. I would just get a feeling that I needed to go to him, he needed water, whatever. Could be a simple thing. He sometimes would act surprised, like, ‘Oh, I was going to call you and there you are!’ I felt that was what I needed to continue to develop. Once you get a taste for that, you get an intuition and act on it and get a positive response, then you continue to listen to that.
That communication with Swami was always the softest, quietest voice in my mind. You could only hear it if your mind was quiet. If I was in a chaotic place personally, I would miss it. I always had to be really careful with my energy. What was I doing, what was I thinking about, how did I feel in my body? If I was tense and upset, I would miss that quiet voice. Without silence, you can’t hear him. Your normal thoughts are running over the top and to hear that voice took silence. So going on duty was always when I knew that it took quieting my mind.
The best compliment for me was being able to surprise him. It meant I was very quiet inside and outside. In this state, I could check on him, take care of him without disturbing him especially when he was resting or meditating. I would switch the water bottle that was at the edge of his bed for a cool bottle. Then I would see him reach for his water and could tell he was surprised that it was cold. I had walked out to his bed and was able to exchange bottles without his notice.
When it was cold, we put hot water bottles under his covers so it would be warm when he laid down. The water bottle had to be changed every couple of hours whether he was there or not. In the summer, he had a water cooler by his bed. If he stayed on his bed for a long time, I would have to fill the cooler while it was running. It was right next to the head of his bed, and it had to be full. If he was there more than four hours I had to sneak over and fill it. Everything I did for him was an exercise in learning how to not disturb him.
In the Jesus Temple, I would see something on the floor, a leaf or something. I would think I should pick that up but would be busy trying to do something else. Later Swami would come in and tell me to pick up the leaf, and look at me like, ‘I already told you!’ That was the thing, he made it obvious; I needed to listen to that voice. I needed to be quiet enough, I needed to have my mind calm. You can never tell what mood an avadhut will be in when you see him. Some days, super quiet, really nice. Other days, politicians, car accidents, police, anything could be running. Being a support for him you had to be quiet and calm. Even if things were very busy, full of activity, but inside, that calmness. Maybe it didn’t happen all the time, but you had to try to always be listening. He responded to that, and it really helped him.
Swami was not the voice screaming loudly in my mind. He is the one who is moving his eyes and expecting you to see what he is indicating. You can only see that if you are looking. If you are paying attention. If you are not paying attention, you won't see it. It's like Baba saying-look to me. Swami expected that.
Developing Silence to Hear the Master's Voice
“When we have the ability to receive the silence in our heart, then automatically the purification of the silence gives the highest information. Automatically it comes. Before that, you have no idea what you’re talking about, what you're expressing to the people. Some people have those kinds of channels. It automatically comes. It means they have the links to the silence. Then the silence teaches unbelievable meditations.” - Sri Kaleshwar transcript, 1-8-99, deep silence, soul attraction
You have to be able to sit still and develop silence. That is where things begin. We can talk about all these esoteric things but if you can’t sit still, you are not eligible. If you are consistent and work at it, you can do it but it takes effort. I sat in the back and could tell who is present by how their energy is. How do you get that? You get it through experience, once you have it it’s completely obvious. Once you have experienced the silence, you can see it and feel it in others who have as well.
To reach the silence, the first thing is you have to do some kind of meditation or japa. I meditated a lot before I came to Swami. With my first guru we were supposed to meditate one hour in the morning and one hour at night, during the day you could do a walking meditation. One of his quotes that I like-your mind is like wild horses. When you meditate in the morning they are in the corral, then all day you let them run wild. Then at night you expect them to come back in and calm down. You need to keep your mind in control all the time, you can't let it run all day and then expect it to calm down when you want it.
I had some experience working with my mind from my time studying with the Toltecs. For me it was a huge gift to meet Don Miguel before I met Swami because I had real tools to use to quiet my mind. The Four Agreements are really quite simple, but that doesn't mean they are easy to do. I actually practiced those teachings and could see huge results in quieting my mind. I had used them long enough before I met Swami to know that they worked. At first, it seems an impossible task because you think you are your mind, you think that is you. First is to realize you even have a choice, when the mind tells you something. If you don't realize you are not your mind you just react without even thinking, your mind says that, you do it, it escalates, it gets worse. If you realize you have a choice, and your happiness depends on your choice, you can choose not to listen to the mind, and it's a practice. Once you start disassociating yourself from your mind, you can start associating with that stillness. The more I did that, the more I was drawn to stillness. It becomes a self-perpetuating cycle. You need to be diligent, you need to pay attention, you need to know you have a choice, you need to choose silence over the mind (not reaction), then you can grow that silence. By the time I met Swami I probably had a little better control than most, and that control came from practice. For me, I did what Miguel said and it worked. The silence grew, and the contrast between the silence and my mind got bigger. At first the mind is completely in control and you have very little stillness. Maybe in the evening before you go to bed, or on a train with a repetitive noise, you can experience stillness. If you actually practice it then you can really go.
The other main teaching from Don Miguel was don't take anything personally. I had been practicing that, so once I was on duty around Swami and he would be upset and he would pinch me, or people who were around him would, I didn't take it personally. It was much easier to realize that he was facing challenges, and I just needed to do what I could to help him. If I took it personally I would crash with that. If you crashed, you weren't doing him any good and you weren't doing yourself any good.
Swami would tell us-you need to be in silence. He gave powerful mantras that brought people into thought-free trance states very easily. And, he wanted us to learn to bring that silence into everything we did in daily life.
An Example of Living in Silence
Generally I didn’t take a shower or change my clothes until just before I went on duty, to be sure they were clean. I had just gotten up and was going somewhere in the ashram, but not on duty, so I was wearing my clothes from the day before. Cindy was going on duty, she had a couple of bags she was carrying, I offered to carry a bag for her. I followed her over to the Mandir. In general, I didn’t want to be seen by Swami before duty time because he could call me or have me stay. So of course, he came out and immediately said, I was going to call you. You have to stay here and Cindy needs to leave. You could say that was intuition, I normally wouldn't go with Cindy but if I hadn't shown up I would have gotten a call. The way I felt about that is, I was drawn to go there. I can't say why, I just volunteered to help her and I was in the right place at the right time. It's that kind of thing where sometimes it isn't even conscious. I just showed up at the right time and he was extremely happy about it! It really can be that simple, you just do what's in front of you. I believe that is another symptom of silence. When you are silent you are in the right place, not even thinking. You are just in the moment and you do what is apparent and you are in the right place.
Cindy was dressed and clean and ready for duty. I was in last night's clothes, I hadn't eaten! I told her that I didn't have clean clothes, she said-you should just wear Swami’s clothes! Of course I would never do that! I was horrified she suggested it. She left and we were getting ready for some VIPs to arrive. We finished, but they didn’t show up. I was hanging around the Jesus Temple, and just washed my face and hands in the sink, but I was just waiting. I went over near the wall near Swami’s bed. There's a place I could sit on the wall where I could hear the cars coming without being seen. Of course, I am getting bored. I have my fountain pen in my kurta. I take my fountain pen out, its green ink, I take the cap off, the cap was completely full of ink. I dropped it on my thigh, it went through my kurta, my pants, my underwear and onto my skin. About that time the car with the VIP comes and I have a huge four-inch spot of bright green ink all the way to my skin! I run in the back, I rinse my kurta and then realize it's all the way to my skin and there's no way it is coming off. Sure enough, I run in the back to Swami’s clothes. I know which of Swami’s clothes are his fat clothes, I go to his fat clothes and pick out a kurta and pants. So I took my clothes off, put his clothes on and was ready to go. His pants fit me, but his kurta top was a little tight. I think I was there the whole night on duty serving the VIPs. I had taken my clothes and put them in a plastic bag. I took his kurta home and washed it and gave it to the boys to put in the laundry to wash it again.
A Conversation with Mataji on the Silence, the Mother and the Master
Mataji: We do japa and meditation to receive huge amounts of energy, empowering our soul and enabling us to stand in Her presence during darshan. The most important thing is to have control of your mind and be in sthita pragnata as much as possible. Her energy is the most powerful in creation; we need to have strict boundaries on our minds.
Terry: Of all of these things, doing japa, building your energy, and silence.
Terry: It’s a huge refuge.
Mataji: Developing deep silence in your soul is the way to approach Her. Then your soul will not be shaky in Her presence, your mind and communication with Her will be clear.
Terry: And an open heart, a surrendered and an open heart, open to what She brings or gives you, then to integrate that into your life.
Mataji: Integrating that energy takes a long time sometimes. The experience changes you forever, everything is different after seeing Her. You are fundamentally different. Your experience of your connection with the Mother never leaves you and continues to grow. Nature begins to reveal things to you about the Mother, creation, what’s running underneath everything. She constantly downloads knowledge into your consciousness. Her energy is guiding your consciousness to merge with the entire creation.
Terry: For me, that information comes in silence. You have to have some control of your mind, that it’s not racing, that it’s not roaring, that it’s quiet enough to hear. Maintaining that silence, to be able to hear that information. A quiet place. Swami prepared me for that with the Mother. Swami could tell me something outright, but mostly he would speak to me in silence. I could hear him, not his voice, but something I would just know to do, and if I did that, it would be the right thing. You figure that out by trying it, by doing it, then seeing if it was really the right thing. Then the next time you know and listen to it. Swami was always upping the ante, like saying, ‘No can you hear this?’
Mataji: ‘Did you catch it?’ The master is always throwing the ball seeing if you can catch it. Training us. Baba said there were three types of disciples: the first kind, the ordinary disciple, the master tells you to do something and you do it when you get around to it, the second is the average student, when the master tells you to do something, you do it. The third kind, the advanced student, the master doesn’t have to say anything, the student does it before the master asks for it.
Terry: I was in between all three all the time! Swami, often if he had to say it, it was like you already missed it. If I have to tell you, it's too late. Often I felt that. If he had to say it, I already blew it! It was that training in listening in silence. Our communication was mostly non-verbal.
One example, I have always carried a knife in my pocket, even in Penukonda. Like when someone needed to open a box, he just looked at me and moved his eyes, like-’go help them’. He was in front of a group and talking. I would not walk in front of everyone, but once he looked I knew that I had his permission to go and help. He looked at me and moved his eyes, I knew what he was saying. A simple example.
Mataji: His looks could speak volumes!
Terry: But you had to be watching, if you were looking someplace else you could miss it.
Terry 'Sundaram' Clark
began his studies with Sri Kaleshwar in 1997. He lived at the ashram in Penukonda India, from 1999 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.
Monika 'Mataji' Penukonda
Mataji worked closely with Sri Kaleshwar (1973-2012) for 15 years in Penukonda, India. She is the editor and ghostwriter of his books: The Real Life and Teachings of Jesus Christ; Shirdi Baba, The Universal Master, Victory Through Vaastu: Ancient Science of Vedic Architecture; The Divine Mystery Fort, The Teachings of Sri Kaleshwar. She is the author of Kaleshwar, and a modern-day rendering of the Sri Sai Satcharitra. Sri Kaleshwar said of her, “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.” Sri Kaleshwar transferred the lineage to her shortly before his mahasamadhi in 2012.