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Stay in an ashram (Sogal) - 1

Reader's discretion advised: This article was written to share my personal experience with yet another Yogi at one point in my life. Every bit of it is written with honesty and there is no exagerration of anything in here. If you feel this topic or article is something related to imaginations, hallucinations, co-incidences, etc then there may be nothing to gain in here but it still may help amuse you for a while. I never have supported or preached about any one religion or rituals but I strongly believe everything is ONE power and thus religion, ritual, place of worship does not create any sort of boundaries in my exposure to witnessing the divinity in everything around.



Our purpose: On February 21, 2009, four of us, Suresh Potdar, Shashikant, KP and myself let ourself out on a journey to Sogal Somnath, a place about 75 kms (about 2-1/2 hour journey) from where we stay. Sogal Somnath is a famous place and is flocked by many bhakths (devotees), lovers, and tourists. Bhakths come here because there is a temple here devoted to Shiva and Parvati. Lovers come here because the belief is that Shiva and Parvati wedded here and also because of the romantic natural setting. Tourists because of its cool climate and the high altitude that this temple and forest is. We four were none of the above three categories. 
We all had visited this place many times before, mostly as picnic spots but this time we all four had one common reason to come here. It was to meet Mohan Swamy who runs an ashram situated on the same hill. The ashram is situated on top of the rock-mountain carefully paved for the comfort of its visitors. In the ashram is the Sajeeva Samadhi place of two not-famous yogis – Maathanand swamy and Narayanamma. At the highest point of the hill is the cave where Maathanand swamy did his tapas (austerity) before his enlightenment.

How it began: Now, Potdarji had met once few months back Mohan Swamy who ran this ashram and he had invited him to his ashram to learn the kriya that he practices. When Potdarji mentioned this to me, I was immediately interested. KP and Shashikant at the same time were decided to visit this place and when I told them about this ashram and the invitation, we decided to go and visit there.

Why it began: We all left Belgaum at about 3:30 p.m. on February 21, 2009. Before this journey began I, as usual, never wanted to expect anything from this trip and told myself that I would to open to whatever the Universe is going to manifest unto me with this trip. As all my previous trips I never understood why the trip happened until I found out the meaning of it as days went by. This time too, the experience was great and I was overjoyed to see, witness, experience, learn a lot of things and also unwind the meaning of the trip.
The beginning: We reached Sogal at 5:30 p.m. the same even (that was a 2-hour break journey). As soon as we reached, we had some tea and snacks and made our way uphill climbing the stony path. The hills here were very stony. We reached the temple and did not stop to look around (we had been here many times before) but made our way further uphill to the ashram. On reaching the ashram, we walked up to a temple and also noticed the Samadhi temple of Maathanand swamy. Two little cute puppies greeted us. They both were just adorable.
Mohan Swamy: i looked around curiously to see Mohan Swamy and heard Mr. Potdar asking one of his disciples about him, who said that he would come there shortly. As I was taking out the fruits that we brought to offer him, his disciple Prakash said Swamiji is coming. As I looked out, I saw a tall, bearded man in robust health, walking up the steps to the temple towards us. He walked sturdily wearing only a saffron lungi (cloth covering below the waist). He had scarce long hair that curled on his shoulders with a back and grey colored moustache and beard. He walked towards us calmly and looked at us with a smile. Mr. Potdar offered the fruits and we all bowed and touched his feet (a sign of greeting, respect and taking blessings from a holy person). I must admit that I was observing Swamiji and testing him in all ways but at the same time being open and non-judgmental about him. 
My vibes did match with him as I saw him just being normal and not moved or excited about anything in any way. He asked us to wash our hands and legs and come in for tea. We soon washed ourselves quickly at the tap that was situated outside his small cottage.

We entered the small room that few cloth sheets laid on the floor that indicated was for us. We sat and soon tea and bhandang (made of puffed rice with some chilly powder). It tasted a little old but I could see Swamiji’s love in it. He sat right in front of us and he had his share too with tea. The fruits that we offered we cut and shared with us. He spoke in Kannada and we knew that he also knew Malayalam (my mother tongue) He casually asked us that we were supposed to be there at 5:30 p.m. as per our call to him the previous day on phone. 
He also told us that we hadn't called him today before coming and Mr. Potdar told him we that it was because we did not want to disturb him. I was knowing keenly that Swamiji had been waiting for us eagerly, which he never ever showed (but it was revealed!) He was lovable as he served us more tea and asked briefly about us all. He was soft in his speech and his flow of speech was at one pace. He never looked like he was running that ashram. His disciples served us earnestly with dedication. What a perfect example of treating guests as God. I had only read about it till now. Though he had disciples around, Swamiji never hesitated to get up and offer us more tea himself. I looked all around in the house and there was a broken cot, two almost-broken cupboards, a few chairs, some vegetables and on the wall were garlanded photos of Swami Maathananda.

After tea, Swamiji he took us to the Krishi Kendra (an outfit built by the Government for farmers) and this is where he asked us to keep our belongings. He then gently told us that we could sleep wherever we wanted, either here or outside. As we changed our clothes, he waited for us patiently there and then sat down on a carpet. There was a carpet laid before where he sat and we all sat in front of him. There was no account of any time or happening because I had switched off my mobile which also had the clock in it.
Swamiji then began talking to us and asked Mr. Potdar what he had learnt and what he practices to which he answered about the Sudharshan Kriya to which Swamiji explained meaning of that kriya and the meaning of the word Sudharshan. “Su” meant the world and “darshan” means seeing, which means seeing the world its pure form. He spoke about Krishna’s symbolic sudharshan chakra (spinning wheel in his finger) and mentioned it also as an example indicating  of capturing the world with love. He spoke about unconditional love. I noticed that Swamiji spoke in Kannada, few words in Hindi and astonishingly few good words in English and this was just to make sure that we understood the words in the right and exact way without being misinterpreted as most of the time it is by many people. He then told us the importance of breath and about maintaining the breath at a normal 12 times (in and out) per minute. He spoke of the advantages of maintaining a normal good health at all times by being aware of our breathing. He told us how the entire range of diseases sprout from irregular breathing and stress. He further mentioned that diseases are 75% mental and 25% due to other factors like wrong food, germs, accidents, lack of care, etc. Thus he emphasized that most risk of diseases can be curbed by having the right knowledge of breathing. He demonstrated to us how the cycle of breath happens unconsciously and how we can consciously also bring about the same natural rate of breath as in sleep. He emphasized that the breathing during our waking hours should be within and not exactly the breathing of air in and out of the nostrils or mouth. He demonstrated this and when we tried it was astounding to note that when this kriya is done there is hardly any exhalation of air from the nostrils felt. He said with practice this becomes more thinner. He demonstrated this a few times. He told us that the breath gets thin and it moves up and down from the chest area to the nostril area (not from one organ to the other but moves vertically up and down along the spinal cord. I asked him if he was mentioning about the Sushumna nadi to which he agreed to and said that this Sushumna nadi gets purified with this technique. I was well read that it is the Kundalini shakti that travels from the root chakra at the base of the spine to the Sahasrara chakra on the top of the crown of the head. I was aptly connected to every word he spoke. I remained hooked on to him for all the rest of the words he spoke ranging from the kriya to daily life mundanes to Ayurvedic medicines and nature cure. Swamiji is a bundle of knowledge when it comes to this. We asked him questions about various ailments and he had the cure of it. He frequently paused in between and touched his closed eyes with his fingers as though pondering over something. I was watching and admiring him all the while in his simplicity and total absence of any ego in any form. Though we interrupted in between, spoke about our own stories, completed his unfinished sentences, there never showed even one single second of unpleasantness on him in any form. He nodded with what we said, laughed with us, agreed to everything that we said and waited patiently for us to complete whatever we had to say. God! This man was divine! All my life, I have only read about such people and today I meet one! There was an unique calmness in all that he did and whenever he spoke. There were no reactions to any external action or speech. He remained undisturbed. Though we came to listen to him and have an opportunity to serve him, here he was listening to us, serving us, feeding us and accepting each one of us as we are. There was a innocent child-like behavior in him; he moved his head and attention towards the one who spoke with him and answered everything softly and lovingly as though an obedient child answers its parents. He laughed heartily at times to small humorous statements that we made or he himself made. At first I had wondered whether he knew anything or not because of the pauses that he made and his low voice and slow explanations but soon I realized the greatness in him or being totally unattached to his surrounding and being in his inner Being at all times. There was that strange silence in him, within him. All so divine but if anybody had to look at him he just looked like just another saffron-clothed sadhu. Soon, somebody called from outside for food and inviting us to have food he quietly got up and moved as though nothing. We followed him to his cottage in a short while. We then sat in his little home as his disciples were busy serving us with brown rice, pickles, vegetables and dal (curry). Also, was served the pieces of the fruits that we had offered him. We began having our food and very soon realized that it was spicy (and very spicy to me!). I raised my head and looked at him and found him quietly relishing the food. I looked at the other three with me and found that the rate of their intake was slowly decreasing due to the spicy and no-so-tasty food. I still had half of my plate full of rice and did not know what to do. Swamiji was very observant of all this and said “The food is spicy, right?” I immediately answered yes. He said it was this day that the spice was more. I thought that he would mention this to the one who cooked the food, but never did he mention a word about the food to the one who cooked and continued eating. I am sure that even the sentence that he asked us about the food was not heard by any of his attendants. I slowly asked KP who was besides me if I give the rest of the food in my plate to the pups outside but then told him that I am hesitant as it would be an insult to Swamiji who was treating his guests so beautifully. KP told me to think and take the step. I didn't know what to do and immediately told in mind to Baba Nityananda to help me consume the food. Saying so, I began eating it hurriedly and within few minutes my plate was empty! I never could imagine eating all that hot spicy food! We then picked our plates, went out and washed it and kept them back in his cottage. He asked us to go take rest in the hall provided to us and told us that there will be no supply of electricity for an hour or so. So, we thought we must return back before it was pitch dark and we knew that it was a jungle around. We came to the room, I plugged in my camera battery for charging and then we four laid the carpet in such a manner that we could all lie down on it together. As we were settling down the electricity went off and the room was pitch dark. Soon a storm of mosquitoes barged and there were different tunes of different intensities buzzing around our ears. KP came to our rescue by taking out the Odomos mosquito repellant and offering it to us. We helplessly applied that lotion to our hands and feet. When we put on the little pen torch or put on the mobile light there were mosquitoes buzzing around it. We thought that the repellent should work but mosquitoes continued buzzing around us. I thought that the previous night when Swamiji was in the room I was asking KP if there would be mosquitoes here and Swamiji, who overheard this, smiled and said “There are no mosquitoes here”. I wondered then how were there so many.... so many that if you wave your hand out in the dark, it would roughly touch atleast 10 of them. Being totally unable to sleep, me and Shashikant thought of going out with the pen torch as we all the time wanted to know how the jungle would look at night. I always wondered how the great yogis lived alone in such jungles. When I and Shashikant came out, it was the most beautiful sight we had ever seen – the stars. The whole sky was fully lit with numerous glittering, bright stars and there did not seem to be enough space between these stars. We have all seen stars but this sight was much beautiful. I knew it was because there were no city lights anywhere around that could dim any of the farthest star too. We called out KP and Mr. Potdar too and they too enjoyed the sight. I tried shooting this on my digi cam but it was just not possible. Just then, we saw a torch light approaching us and we knew it was Swamiji. He came there and stood with us looking at the stars. He laughed and enjoyed as we spoke and said that we are loving it because we have never been out in wilderness this way because and that the natural beauty was nothing unusual to them. He went in and we were busy taking pictures of us in that darkness. 
The photos came out clear due to the strong flash. I hesitatingly called Swamiji for a photograph and he immediately came and sat with us on the steps. KP took the snap and said it came out good. Swamiji sounded pleased that it has come good but in contrast to my expectation he just had a glimpse of the pic we showed him on the digital camera but did not look any further keen though he looked pleased at the capture. He observed all that we did silently and then went in. We all then got in and lay down to sleep. Mr. Potdar had cough throughout the night due throat irritation. Due to the change in place or should i say it was some kind of release in such vibrating place. Next morning, we got up and we observed a mysterious thing. We had gone out into the dark being fed up of the mosquitoes and then after Swamiji came in and we got back to sleep, there was not a single mosquito! Whole night then we slept without a single mosquito! Now, if there were no mosquitoes because he mentioned there wouldn't be or if mosquitoes were not naturally around him, is still a mystery.





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