My master often told me, “This entire world is a theatre of learning. You should not depend on me alone to teach you, but should learn from everything.” One time he instructed me: “Now, my boy, go to Darjeeling. Outside the city, there is a stream. There is a cremation ground on the bank of that stream. No matter what happens, for 41 days you should do a particular Sadhana [spiritual practice] which I am going to teach you. No matter how much your mind attempts to dissuade you from completing the Sadhana, you should not leave that place.” I said, “Very well.”
Many people are afraid of staying in such a place. They have funny notions. But it didn’t bother me. I went there and lived in a small thatched hut, where I made a fire for cooking. During those times, I was going to University, and it was summer vacation. I thought, “It’s very good for me to spend my vacation in Sadhana.”
I followed the practices he had assigned to me for thirty-nine days and nothing happened. Then some powerful thoughts came into my mind: “What a foolish thing you are doing, wasting your time in a lonely place, cut off from the world. You are wasting the best period of your youth.”
My master had said, “Remember, on the forty-first day you will definitely find some symptoms of improvement within yourself. Don’t give up before that. Don’t be swayed by the suggestions of your mind—no temptations.”
I had said, “I promise,” but on the thirty-ninth day my mind advanced reason after reason against this thing I was doing. I thought, “What difference can two more days possibly make? You have not experienced anything after thirty-nine days. In addition, you promised your friends that you would write to them, and you haven’t written a single letter. You are living among the dead! What type of teaching is this? Why should your master have you do this? He can’t be a good teacher.” So I decided to leave.
I poured a bucketful of water on the fire and I destroyed the small thatched hut. It was a cold night, so I wrapped myself in a woolen shawl and walked toward the city. I was going down the main street when I heard some musical instruments being played. There was a woman singing and dancing. The theme of the music was “There is very little oil in the vessel of life, and the night is vast.” She repeated the phrase again and again. That stopped me. The sound of the tabla drums seemed to call to me: “Dhik, dhik! Fie on thee, fie on thee! What have you done?”
I felt so dejected. I thought, “Why don’t I complete the final two days? If I go to my teacher, he will say, ‘You have not completed your practice. You are expecting fruit before the plant has matured.’” So I turned back and continued my Sadhana for the remaining two days. On the forty-first day, the fruit of the practice appeared just as he had predicted.
I then walked back to the city once again and went to the house of the singer. She was a beautiful and famous dancing girl. She was considered to be a prostitute. When she saw a young swami coming toward her house she called out, “Stop, don’t come here! You are at the wrong place! Such a place as this is not for you!” But I kept right on. She closed her door and told a servant, a large and powerful man with big moustaches, not to let me in. He commanded, “Stop, young swami! This is the wrong place for you!”
I said, “No. I want to see her. She is like my mother. She has helped me and I am grateful to her. Had she not alerted me with her song, I would not have completed my practices. I would have failed and I would have condemned myself and felt guilty the rest of my life.” When she heard this, she opened her door and I said, “Really, you are like a mother to me.”
I told her what had happened, and we talked for some time. She had heard of my master. When I got up to go, she said, “I promise to live like your mother from now on. I will prove that I can be not only mother to you but to many others as well. Now I am inspired.”
The next day she left for Varanasi, the seat of learning in India, where she lived on a boat on the Ganges. In the evening she would go ashore and chant on the sand. Thousands of people used to join her. She wrote on her houseboat, “Don’t mistake me for a sadhu. I was a prostitute. Please do not touch my feet.” She never looked directly at anyone’s face and never talked to anyone. If someone wanted to talk to her she would only say, “Sit down with me and chant God’s name.” If you asked, “How are you?” she would chant, “Rama.” If you asked, “Do you need anything? Can I get you something?” she would respond, “Rama,” nothing else.
One day before a huge crowd of five or six thousand people she announced, “I am leaving early in the morning. Please throw this body in the water, where fishes will feed off it.” And then she kept silent. The next day she cast off her body.
When awakening comes we can completely transform our personalities, throwing off the past. Some of the greatest sages of the world had been very bad—like Saul who later became St. Paul. Suddenly the day of awakening came for Saul on the way to Damascus, and his personality was transformed. Valmiki, the author of the Ramayana, one of the ancient epics of India, had a similar experience. Don’t condemn yourself. No matter how bad or how small you think you have been, you have a chance to transform your whole personality. A true seeker can always realize the reality and attain freedom from all bondage and miseries. In just one second you can enlighten yourself.
source: Living with the Himalayan Masters by Swami Rama