I was only 23, fresh off the plane from Canada. It was my first time in India. Though I felt like I was right side up for the first time in my life, I had no idea what was in store for me. They say the guru appears when the student is ready. I suppose I was ready.
For nearly a year, I traveled from temple town to ashram, often with sadhus (wandering aesthetics) or other fellow seekers. I spent six months in the South of India, then six in the North, staying in villages and cities and all the spaces in between. With just a small backpack carrying all I needed, and often sleeping outdoors on rooftops under an open sky, I had profound experiences outside the well-traveled tourist paths. I learned from Brahmin priests, went to religious festivals, lived with impoverished villagers and lavish city folk; and I met my guru, Amma. My life is marked by BA (before Amma) and AA (after Amma) (rather than a BC and AD). This year changed my life completely.
When I was at the Sivananda ashram in Kerala for my yoga teacher training, I met two young teenagers, a brother and a sister, who simply glowed. They emanated a light that was notable. I asked them what they were doing to exude such radiance. They knew exactly what I was seeing and simply said, “It is our guru.” All I knew was that I wanted some of THAT! It was intoxicating. By Grace, they told me that their guru’s ashram was very close by.
As soon as the teacher training program was complete, I went to Amritapuri and met Amma, also known as the Hugging Saint. I now know that what I experienced for the ensuing two months were precious jewels, experiences few had. Today, Amma’s presence draws crowds that fill football stadiums as She tours the world. But when I first met Her in 1993, I was just one of a handful of people milling about Her. I did not know how lucky I was. I look back on those times with deep fondness.
It is hard to describe a darshan with Amma as each one is unique and perfect on so many levels, going to places where the mind cannot explain. What I can say of my first darshan is that everything stopped and I started to cry, and it did not stop. I cried for days. It just would not stop. I was neither sobbing nor whimpering. The tears were not tears of joy, nor of sorrow. I just cried, and cried more as some form of deep inner release. It was like a dam had broken inside of me and my soul started to flow again along the current of the Divine River of life.
The magical year in India blew my soul’s doors open. I met Amma. That was everything. I also read books that painted a fuller picture of yoga and the spiritual path, such as Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse, the Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda. I studied classical yogic texts such as the Hatha Yoga Pradhibika, the Mahabharata, the Yoga Sutras and texts by Iyengar and Sivananda, to name a few.
I was only 23, but I felt like I had lived more than most people twice my age. This year changed everything. Though I was immersed for over eight hours a day in yoga, study and meditation, no external action I had taken was the source of any change. It was Amma all along. I realize now that She had called me to India. She had brought those books, people, places and teachers into my life. It is only by the guru’s Grace that I am at all. It is only by God’s Grace that I have the capacity to evolve, love, think, act, speak, breathe or walk. This year in India created the foundation for my understanding and aspiration to live my whole life dedicated to God, to spiritual truth in service to the magnificence of love. This year showed me that Yoga is everything, everywhere, always.
To be continued next month
Parvati Devi is the editor-in-chief of Parvati Magazine. In addition to being an internationally acclaimed Canadian singer, songwriter, producer and performer, she is a yoga teacher and holistic educator. Having studied yoga and meditation since 1987, Parvati developed her own yoga teaching style called YEMTM Yoga as Energy Medicine. Her music, including the singles “I Am Light” and “Yoga in the Nightclub”, brings forward a conscious energy into the pop mainstream. Her book “Confessions of a Former Yoga Junkie” is a road map to a revolutionary life makeover for sincere spiritual seekers.
For more information on Parvati, please visit www.parvati.tv.