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The Transformation of a Heart

 

   

by Al Drucker

 
   

 

   

9

A few years after first coming to Swami, I had the notion of visiting an ashram in the north where some American friends were staying. In my mind there was a desire to listen to the discourses being given by their guru on the Gita. In darshan I asked Swami for permission to go there.

His reply was short and succinct, "One path. One teacher. No confusion. You stay." Clearly, I was not ready to go and listen to some other teacher. I stayed and put the trip completely out of my mind. A year later in darshan, when I had totally forgotten about it, Swami said to me, "Now you can go to that place." But there had been many problems in that ashram and I no longer had any interest in going there. I asked Baba if I could go on a pilgrimage to the Ganges instead; he gave his consent. A few days later I was on my way to Delhi and then on to Rishikesh.

It was a long, hot, dusty, bouncy ride through one of the most-overcrowded parts of India. The heat, the stench, the teeming humanity, the lack of sanitary facilities along the way, all took their toll on this western body. When I finally arrived in Rishikesh, the beautiful holy city at the foothills of the Himalayas, where the Ganges becomes a mighty river, running wide and strong, I was unable to appreciate any part of the visual beauty that was now all around me. I had become painfully ill with stomach cramps and fever.

I went to the office of the ashram where I had made my reservation, arriving there just as they were about to close for lunch. I asked the sadhu on duty for accomodations. He said there was no place in the ashram. Didn't they receive my letter and my telegram? No, nothing was received. Could he suggest some other place to try, perhaps a hotel or traveller's bungalow? No, there was no place available anywhere around. Could I leave my baggage there for a short time while I looked for a place? No, that would not possible. Could I perhaps have a little drinking water. Sorry, it is already past closing time; there are tea shops around. And so, a few moments later, I was out in the street in the indian noon-time sun, sitting, or more correctly, slumping on my baggage, miserably sick and no place to go.

A nice-looking young man came up to me and asked, "What is your native place?" It is one of the standard phrases they learn in school, and every foreigner who spends any extended time in India hears the query endless times, as children come up to practice their English. This time I couldn't handle it, I was feeling too miserable.
I said, "Please, go away."
He persisted, "But where did you come from?"
"From the south, from Andhra Pradesh, and I'm not well and I don't want to talk, so please leave me be", I answered.
But far from leaving me alone, the boy came closer and said, "Did you come from Sai Baba's ashram?"
I perked up. "Do you know of Sai Baba?" I asked.
"O yes!" he answered, "Baba told me to come here."
I said, "Then please do me a favor and get me some clean drinking water."
"I'll get it for you right away", he answered.

He walked a few steps away from me and suddenly he looked down at his hands; then he pivoted around and said, "Look, this has just come. It must be for you." His hand was filled with a nice big mound of white vibhuti, the kind that Swami makes.
Startled, I asked, "Where did it come from?"

"Well, I think it came through the air from Puttaparthi", he answered. I took the vibhuti from him and he went off to get me the glass of water. Just as I put a little bit in my mouth, the same sadhu that had seemed so unfriendly earlier, came running up to me, flashing a big smile and said, "We have a room for you! One of the permanent residents will be off-station for some time. You can stay in his place. It's very nice. But now, come with me and wash up and have some lunch." He helped me with my baggage and showed me to the room. I could feel Swami's love flooding into me; I knew immediately that everything would be alright.

For days afterwards I wondered about the boy who had given me the vibhuti and had gone off to fetch me some water. I never saw him again, nor did anyone know of him. It is as if he had vanished into thin air.

 

     
       
   

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