Four Questions


There was an incident at Shivabalayogi’s ashram in Anantapur that sheds light on his work. It is a story Swamiji often repeated. There were university students who disturbed the weekly bhajans [devotional songs] at the ashram and taunted the devotees in bhava [spritual trance]. The students thought they were exposing a fake holy man. The next time Swamiji stayed at the ashram, he heard the devotees’ complaints and sent word to the university inviting students to come and talk with him.

Some forty students came and Swamiji asked them to meet among themselves, decide on four questions to ask, and choose three to present the questions to Swamiji.

Having decided upon questions and representatives, three students were invited to Swamiji’s room. First they asked why Swami established ashrams at Anantapur and other places at huge costs. The money could have been better used for running engineering and medical colleges for poor students.

Swamiji told the students that for the sake of the spiritual upliftment of devotees, he established ashrams in different parts of the country where anybody could go, get initiation into meditation, and stay free of cost for doing meditation or participating in the functions celebrated there. He said that his ashrams were like colleges of meditation, where regardless of religion, caste, creed, color, gender or age, everyone was welcome to come and, with the help and guidance of Swamiji, do meditation to solve his or her problems. There were plenty of engineering and medical colleges in the country, and they were run on a commercial basis, but Swamiji’s mission was purely spiritual and that was to teach everyone meditation.

Then the students asked why Swami traveled by car and airplane. Many great saints walked on bare foot, so they wondered why Swamiji did not.
Swamiji said that his devotees had taken birth in many countries throughout the world and that instead of troubling them to come to him, he decided to go to them. If he only walked, he would not be able to cater to their spiritual and physical needs.

The students asked why Swami did not give discourses. They thought that was contrary to what all the other saints and great men do. They also pressed him on why, instead of giving teachings, he created situations in which many men, women and children appeared as if possessed during the evening bhajans at the ashram.

Swamiji’s answer was that he followed the instructions of his guru, Lord Shiva. He gave initiation exactly the same way as Lord Shiva instructed. His guru did not tell Swamiji to give discourses, only that he should give initiation into meditation to all aspirants. Swamiji was following those instructions.

Swamiji told the students that he preferred practical demonstrations over theoretical discourses. Because he completed twelve years of tapas [spiritual austerities], wherever his devotees perform bhajans, gods and goddesses manifest in bhava and give joy to the devotees. Bhava was very different from bad spirits who create a lot of trouble for people.

The students saved their best question for last. Had Swami seen God? If the answer to this question was yes, then they asked Swamiji to show God to them.

Swamiji told them that theoretical answers would not suffice for the question regarding seeing God, so they themselves should come the following Sunday for a practical demonstration. But they would have to follow whatever instructions Swamiji gave. The students agreed to the conditions, and Swamiji asked all forty students to sit down and take lunch as prashad [blessed food].

The next Sunday, the college students returned and Swamiji initiated them into meditation. After one hour, they were asked to open their eyes and describe their experiences. One student complained he had seen nothing, but then admitted he had opened his eyes during the meditation. All the other students had followed the instructions and each described visions of God. The students stopped troubling the ashram, and many became ardent devotees of Swamiji.  
From the book: Divine Play by Tom Palotas