In honor of Swami's Jayanti, we are happy to announce a new installment from a new book by Terry Clark, At the Feet of an Avadhut, Life lessons Learned Serving Sri Kaleshwar.
Terry was Sri Kaleshwar’s personal attendant, a soul mate, and ‘godfather,’ as Sri Kaleshwar would affectionally call him. We are grateful for Terry's stories of Swami. They are priceless gifts for the soul.
During this special time, we are also grateful for the self-less service Terry gave to Swami during his life and for the stories he is sharing with us now of that experience.
We hope you enjoy! Jai Kaleshwar, Jai Ma!
At the Feet of an Avadhut:
Life Lessons Learned Serving Sri Kaleshwar
By Terry 'Sundaram' Clark
Mother Divine Darshan
Before our Mother Divine darshan, Swami said something to me that really popped my mind out, “She knows you better than you know yourself. She's waiting to see you. She wants to see you.” She's waiting for us to get to the point where we can see Her. It’s us who aren't looking. That was such a powerful statement to hear. She's waiting for us!
My experience with Swami was the same, he knew me better than I knew myself, and the most important part even though he knew you, he didn’t judge you. That is such a difference, somebody that knows everything about you, knows your past lives, your soul's history, yet still doesn't judge you in the way that you judge yourself. There's a huge freedom in realizing that. The master knows everything about you and still loves you. We make mistakes, we are human, even with the best of intentions you can still make mistakes. He would say mistakes are human, to forgive is Divine. He didn't have that ‘holding on’ or punishing aspect. ‘Ok, this happened, it is what it is, just go on’. There's a huge freedom in that. But you have to be able to do that too, to let go of your mistakes and self-judgements.
Approach to Seeing Mother Divine: A Beautiful Form or Terrible Form?
When Swami was teaching about the Divine Mother in Penukonda he asked a question to the students, “What form of the Mother do you want to see? Beautiful or terrible?”
Some people wanted to see Kali as their first experience of Mother Divine. But for me, I knew that you can't be afraid when you see the Mother. For whatever reason, I felt that seeing Her would be enough without taking a chance of becoming fearful, so I wanted to see Her beautiful form. I was quite surprised that some people would choose to see the terrible form. I think it was kind of a western thing where people were trying to go to the extreme, or perhaps an exaggerated assessment of their soul capacity. I felt it would be better for me to do a gradual step before going for a really intense experience. If you become fearful, you can die in darshan, literally have a heart attack! If you see a really fierce form, you may not be able to hold that energy. It could crash you. For a long time before the darshans, Swami would actually say it could be a life risk. He made it out to be a really big deal that you had to be really careful, aware and humble.
That thing of wanting to see something really intense, I didn't have that. If it really is that big, why would you even take a chance? That day in the temple Swami looked at me when he was asking people which form of the Mother they wanted to see. When he asked me, I said, “I want to see Her beautiful form. I want to be attracted, I want to see something that is striking and beautiful, not terrifying or scary.” Maybe I had enough energy that I could see a terrifying form and handle it, but I wasn't sure, and I really didn't want to take a chance.
Swami was a dare and dash character. He always admired people, or at least seemed to, who were willing to risk everything on something. I never felt that way. When he asked me if I wanted to go fast or slow, I said slow. I would rather go slow with something that was sure rather than risk everything on a one time win where I could lose everything. I think that was partially because I could stay in India indefinitely, so why hurry? He had commented before that other people came and could only stay for a certain time. Right from the beginning there was a time constraint and a restriction on what he could do with them. I was the opposite, since I knew I could stay longer I didn't see any reason to be in a hurry. I didn't know how long it would take or how hard it would be, but better to go incrementally than just jump to the highest. Different people had different ways of doing things, but that was my choice.
Preparing for Darshan
Swami put us through an intense process before we had darshan so you are prepared every angle, so you don't fail. You've done so much purification, so much japa, he's run you through every emotion and everything he can to prepare you beforehand, so you are really kind of wound up.
There were eleven of us that Swami put in a group to have Mother Divine’s darshan. He sent us to do our meditations by the river in Hampi. We did 12 hours a day of japa connecting to Mother Divine. Out of this group he chose Monika and I, then added four additional people not in our group, to make six. The additional four students hadn’t done the sadhana. It was a mix of advanced, middle and beginning students. This was typical of Swami. He said the energy of the more advanced students would automatically lift the more beginning level students. He could make efficient use of the energy that way, more people can benefit.
The group consisted of me and five women! They nominated me to be the group leader. As there was no permission to record Swami or take photos, one of the group who had just gotten out of college was chosen to take notes. We needed accurate notes of instructions and teachings Swami was giving regarding our process. Typically, there was a problem because people didn’t always agree on what he said. We would read the notes, and if we didn't agree, I would ask each person if they felt Swami had said something different then I would go and ask him for clarification. I would go even if I felt it was necessary only for the sake of the cohesion of the group and to make everyone comfortable.
The thing was, Swami was really good about clarifying. He really wanted you to be clear, and the intention for the process had to be clear, and it was really more than ok to ask for clarification. He spoke with Monika and I about group cohesion and needing to keep the group on one page. We needed to work on keeping everyone working together in unity which was sometimes very difficult.
There were two people who always had a disagreement with what everyone else had heard. Mostly it was they who my clarifications were for. They were both pretty hard about things and had very strong opinions different from the rest of the group. A few times I got frustrated, but as part of keeping the group cohesive I didn't mind going to ask Swami questions. This was the first real time where I was forced to interact with him. Before that, when we would talk, it was because he came over, not because I went after him. It was really a new thing for me to actually have to pull on him.
At first it was hard for me to track him down in the ashram. But when I finally found him, he was really open and inviting. I would write the questions down beforehand and would be clear about the question. But Swami would be doing different things then suddenly I became involved in whatever that was. If he was eating, he would offer me food. Sometimes he wouldn’t let me leave and started talking about all kinds of other stuff. It was all really interesting for me. It was like, holy cow! He also brought up a bunch of emotions in me. The master is always purifying us. I had thought it would be simple, I would go ask him a question, he would answer, then I would go right back to the group and tell them. But he didn't operate that way. It got trickier to interact with him, but it wasn't unpleasant. This is how I started hanging out with Swami.
The way I think about it now, it was a really good introduction to interacting with him. I didn't expect him to drop everything to talk to me. If he was in the swing, I would go near there and hang around. I would watch to see if he was talking to other people. Normally he waved me over, he could feel if I had a question. I never felt like I was pulling on him. My sense was, he was impressed by how I interacted with him.
One time, I went to the mandir to ask Swami something. I was by myself and Swami was the bottom of the stairs from the Jesus Temple. I came in the back door just as Swami was coming down the stairs. He looked over and said to me, “Oh, hi darling.” Swami had just learned a new word. It was cute in an odd kind of way.
Then he said, “Your group should come over.” He gave some instructions and indicated that the darshan could happen soon. I had never heard him say anything like that, it’s funny how it struck me as really odd. Our darshan happened later at night.
He told us to clean the Jesus Temple from top to bottom and prepare for the darshan that night. Later that night, we were to go and sit in front of Jesus (the statue in the Jesus Temple) relax and make each other laugh. He wanted us to be out of our heads.
Later that evening, after we had cleaned the Jesus Temple and spent a lot of time relaxing and laughing, we went downstairs to the Baba Temple. There he gave us some final instructions for seeing Her; not to talk to Her, not to look Her in the eyes, not to spend too much time because this was the first time. We had to go in the room, do pranam, ask Her for a boon and then leave. He also gave a particular instruction about what to ask Her for. The darshan was to be in his bedroom. We were all to wait there until our turn, then go into the room one at a time. Swami would be in the room with us.
I watched as a couple of people come out of the room before I went in, they looked so altered when they came out. It was quite something. Then it was finally my turn. When I turned the corner to enter the room, I could see Her standing there as She waved to me and was smiling! I was so surprised. It was such an inviting gesture! It melted me. She was beautiful, so incredibly beautiful. Her face was stunningly. She was impeccable. Her brilliant sari was folded immaculately, completely what you would see in a Goddess photo, the jewelry, the hair, everything. She matched my size, She didn't strike me as being too tall or too short. She was really gorgeous. Like nothing I’d ever seen. I can’t really describe Her. There is no beauty to compare with it. But because She was so alluring and beautiful, I was afraid to look at Her directly. I didn’t want to be tempted to have any kama for Her. Instead I immediately dived to pranam at Her feet. I pranamed but didn't touch Her feet. At Her feet, I closed my eyes and lost consciousness for some time. I felt like I was lost in eternity. Somehow, I am sure it was Swami’s grace, I brought myself back, got up, asked Her for a boon, thanked Her and said, “See you again soon, Mother.”
After Mother’s Darshan
One of the instructions Swami gave was not to talk about our darshan with anyone, to be in silence and in the energy reflecting on the experience. To me, this wasn’t difficult. It was quite easy. We had worked for months, even years, doing japa to reach the place where it could actually happen. And, the truth was, it was much more natural and familiar than I had expected! She really is our Mother so why wouldn’t we feel that closeness with Her? Why wouldn’t we feel that comfortable with Her? Her energy was huge, unbelievably strong, like nothing I had experienced before but I didn't feel shaking inside since She seemed really happy to see me. It wasn't at all terrifying. My mind was really quiet and my awareness was clear. I was struck by how inviting She was to me, waving and smiling, it was not scary at all for me.
After the experience, we were all waiting in the Jesus Temple for Swami. Just then, one of our group came over to me and just started talking. She was telling me everything about her darshan, description, exactly everything Swami said not to talk about! I was trying to shoo her away without making it a big deal, trying not to lose touch with my own my experience which I was doing, going over it in my head, kind of replaying it. There she was just spilling everything. Finally, somebody in the group told her to be quiet. That's one of those things, when the energy gets really high people can act really funny.
But it turns out, it was really good that she shared with me. In it, I learned that her experience was completely different than mine. Mother Divine looked completely different to her than to me. Everything she said was completely different than what I had seen. Swami had said that it was an experience unique to each person. Like Vivekananda, he just saw Her big toe. For me, I clearly saw Her, the whole form.
Although I was a little irked by her distracting me by doing what Swami said not to do, not to share. I did learn from her sharing that it really was an individual experience the Mother tailors to each person. She knows you more than you know about yourself. She knows what you need. It was truly amazing to realize that each time a person entered the room, they saw a different embodiment of the Divine Mother.
Swami talked about Monika’s experience and was really super happy about it. In Monika’s darshan, Mother Divine put Her foot on Monika’s head. Swami told us he had never seen that before. It had only happened to one other person in history, Bhaktivikramata. It was a super great symptom. He was really happy with the way it went. Really really happy. Swami’s only real happiness was the success of his students. He was happier for us than we were ourselves because he knew the depth of what Mother Divine was giving us.
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.