Yesterday, being Sunday, I started my travel towards Ontimitta once again. Unlike last time, I neither had any poetic or sublime experiences, nor was I expecting them to happen. In a state of indifference, I was waiting to see what would happen. From the time I entered the temple, I felt heavy in my heart and my eyes were drenched in tears and for unknown reasons I was in deep sadness.
Chandrasekhar, who accompanied me, the temple priest and other devotees looked at me strangely. There’s a saying ‘Men never cry’. Suspecting that I may be taken for an actor, I tried to control my emotions, turned my face aside and wiped tears from my eyes with a handkerchief but still couldn’t control the flow of tears. I felt a torrent of painful feelings touching and entering my heart center.
In the same state of mind, after praying respect to God, I sat for meditation in the interior hall of the temple and went deep into myself to discover the cause behind this sadness. I could clearly perceive the reasons. I ended my meditation after praying to Lord Sri Rama, ‘If what I saw in meditation is true, please show me direct evidence through someone to prove it’. Then I requested my colleague Chandrasekhar to take pictures of the sculptures in the temple mantapa, and he also took a few pictures of mine.
How to meditate? How does it feel to be in a meditative state? Many ask me such questions via email, many even go further and ask me to be their guru and show the way. I don’t think I have the divine sanction to do it. It requires God’s consent to be a guru, unless you hear a clear voice of God’s command, taking up the role and leading the way to others would be a misadventure.
Lord Sri Ramakrishna once quoted, ‘It’s like a water snake trying to consume a frog, it could neither swallow it, nor let it go. The frog as well as the snake, both do suffer’. Same is the suffering upon taking the responsibility of disciples, without the consent of God. But as a friend, I would try clarifying the doubts of true spiritual seekers, to the best of my knowledge, and to an extent what I heard from elders and there is no wrong in doing so.
Consider a big building which has many rooms and each room has a door. Closing each successive door one after the other, we go inside the house, then after closing the last door, we go to sleep in the innermost room. It’s a common experience for everyone. All of us would do the same every day in our house, the only difference being, some houses may be small and some, big. Meditation is similar to this practice. It would be like, closing the doors from outside and proceeding deep inside. I can give another example, residents of America would have this experience. Most of the American houses have cellars. It’s like after closing the outside doors, open the cellar entrance, take the stairs step by step to reach the basement. You may find light in the basement, however in meditation you may experience that you won’t be able to find one until you reach a certain depth. As another example, swimmers who know how to dive into a deep well would be aware of this. Experienced divers who go deep into a well to fetch the lost items would undergo a similar experience. It becomes darker, as you go down and reach the bottom of a well, the humming sound rises in volume and the pressure felt by the body also increases. You will finally realize a feeling of support, upon reaching the bottom of well. I can discuss in detail about this in another post. Now, let’s move on with the current topic.
Ontimitta is a prominent holy place. Lord Sri Rama, Mother Sita, and Lakshmana stayed here for three days. Close by there is Mrukandu Ashram, where Markandeya was blessed by Lord Shiva and became immortal. On top of a hill named Sringisailam, sage Sringi did tapas. Poet Pothana wrote the precious text Bhagavatam in Telugu, while residing here. Vasudasa Swamy (Vaavikolanu Subba Rao garu) famously known as Andhra Valmiki authored a part of Ramayanam in Telugu titled Mandaram during his stay here. Annamayya, Veera Brahmam garu, Kshetrayya and many more revered personalities visited and prayed to Lord Kodanda Rama. This sacred place was visited by numerous poets, sages, and revered persons. This is one side of a coin, let’s look into the dark side. For thousands of years, lives of silent and innocent sages suffered severe agony at this place, who sacrificed their lives for no reason. Now I will explain how I came to know about it.
I meditated in the temple corridor till afternoon, then got engaged in conversation with the temple priest for some time. During the conversation he detailed an event that happened recently. He asked me ‘Do you know Nadi astrology?’. I did not tell him that I hold a master’s degree in Astrology from 10 years ago, and have good experience in it, I instead, gave a pleasant smile and did not respond.
He continued, six months earlier, a Tamilian from Salem, Tamil Nadu, went for Nadi astrology. He used to see in his dream a temple. He struggled to know the reason behind why a temple appeared in his dream? What is the meaning of this dream? To clarify his doubts, he chose Nadi astrology, according to which, in his past-life, around two hundred years ago he was a priest in Ontimitta temple. He was negligent and did not perform daily rituals of the temple as required because of which in this life he was born in a different dynasty in Tamil Nadu.
Immediately after knowing the cause he boarded the train to Kadapa and took a bus to reach Ontimitta from Kadapa and reached this temple. Looking at the temple and identifying similarities with the one in his dreams, he cried with tears of joy. This incident happened 6 months ago. Temple priest had the phone number of that person, I dialed instantly from my cell phone to speak with that Tamilian. He did not understand Telugu, and neither did I know Tamil. However, I concluded the event to be real after interacting with him in English.
In the afternoon, I hiked on nearby Sringisailam hill and reached the ashram of Andhra Valmiki situated on top of the hill. It’s a house with two rooms. In another two-roomed house beneath, stayed an old lady, who holds responsibility to guard Ashram during night. She had a companion dog as support. I asked her ‘How do you stay all alone on top of this hill during night?’. She smiled and replied, ‘I have the support of God’. I was amazed looking at her courage and felt it’s true that faith is the real strength.
She felt unknown affection looking at me and greeted me like she knew me for a long time. She invited me to sit, gave me water from a pot and offered tea to drink. I asked her, ‘how you were able to get milk on this hilltop avva (grandmother)’? she replied, ‘you need to get it from downhill son’. I felt sad for her using the milk she got from downhill and requested her a lot not to make tea for us, however she did not listen. It was delightful to see the panoramic view of green fields landscape and hills spread across a few miles sitting down under the shade of a neem tree on the peak of the hill. It was pleasing weather with a cold breeze.
I felt ‘How wonderful it would be to meditate all alone, entire night on this peak’ and said the same to her, she replied ‘You can stay here as long as you wish, God Kodanda Rama called you to be here, there is a bonding between you and this hill’. I wished to take a few pictures but realized camera cells got discharged. I will upload photos of Sringisailam in the blog, some other time.
A sadhu named Govinda Swamy walked to the top of the hill and met us. He is a wanderer and despite being from the Reddy caste, he renounced worldly and materialistic life and chose to be a traveler. His original name might have been Govinda Reddy, and now people call him Govinda Swamy. Looking at his face and eyes, it appeared as if he has made some progress in spiritual life. He’s very well acquainted with the history and significance of the land of Ontimitta. For no reason he felt like climbing the hill to reach here. The old woman and Govinda Swamy told us many details about Andhra Valmiki Vasudasa Swamy. Then I could understand why I felt so much pain upon entering the temple in the morning and realized how peculiar and strange life is.
It all happened a hundred years ago, Vasudasa Swami worked as a Tahsildar in this region, later he worked and retired as a Telugu pandit in Madras college. He resided in this village, wore a simple loin cloth being detached from worldly objects, wandered across thousands of hamlets and villages on foot for alms in a coconut shell. Such an honorable and ascetic person he was, who used the money received from alms to revive the condition of this temple. Moreover he offered food daily to five thousand people. He was a prolific writer who wrote innumerable books, and one’s lifetime is not enough to read them all. Only he would know how he was able to write so many books, Only God Sri Rama who blessed him, would know how he wrote. Even at the age of seventy, he spent twenty hours a day writing literature. He was a great intellectual & a great scholar, a great poet and a great Sadhu, such an extraordinary person he was, whose name and fame spread across Andhra Pradesh and people started visiting him in large numbers to touch his feet, which hurt the ego of the village chieftain who became envious and annoyed with the situation.
Looking at Vasudasa Swamy’s name and fame and his popularity among people who bow down to touch his feet, the village headman’s ego was hurt. He was like a zamindar, leading sixteen villages who could not bear people’s affection and respect towards a weak and poor sadhu instead of him, so he decided and planned to send him out of the village by sending goons to warn the old Swamy to leave the village forthwith. Swamy humbly responded ‘I will leave upon receiving the command of Lord Rama’.
The village head was furious because swami did not heed his warning. One day he himself turned up and beat old Swamy who was observing silence and fasting and dragged him onto the streets abusing him with slang words. Swamy bore all humiliation and just pleaded by folding his hands ‘Rama Rama’, which infuriated the headman who beat him further and left the scene after ordering Swami to leave the village. Frightened devotees took Swamy into their house and attended to his needs.
Swamy felt very sad for the insult and went to sleep. In the dream, Lord Sri Rama appeared and said "Are you feeling sad for such a small thing? He is a crow. What kind of a devotee are you, will you feel bad when crows poke at you? Lives of devotees are like fire pits of sorrows. You will shine like pure gold when you sail through the difficulties. Leave this village and live on a nearby hill, Sringisailam. Sage Sringi attained siddhi after doing tapasya on this hill. I too stayed there for three days during my exile. You also live there".
Vasudasa Swami left his dearest god Ontimitta Kodanda Rama and started living on SringiSailam. His devotees started visiting him and their number was swelling day by day. Seeing this, the headman asked his goons to bring Swamy by force. Seeing Swamy, who was very weak and had no strength due to fasting and constantly meditating on Lord Sri Rama, the goons did not want to harm Swamy and with folded hands, they pleaded "Swamy, our master has developed enmity towards you, he may even kill you. He is unable to bear you becoming popular. Please leave this village at once". Swamy repeated the same answer and said "If Lord Sri Rama commands me to leave, I will oblige and leave". Knowing this, one day the village headman came and abused Swamy with unspeakable words and beat him again and threatened to kill him if he did not leave the village.
Swamy could not sleep that night and tears were flowing constantly. "Oh Lord!! What is my sin? On your orders I left Solingur in Tamilnadu and came to Onitmitta. On your orders again, I renovated your dilapidated temple by begging in the villages. Why am I going through this pain and difficulty when I am chanting your name all the time and doing service to you? O Lord! Why am I insulted like this? I am going through all this because I might have done some sins in my previous births". Swamy uttered these words while sobbing inconsolably and went into sleep on the hilltop.
Lord Sri Rama with a smile appeared in his dream and said "My dear, you will not be able to live here. I am in Angalakuduru near Tenali. That place is serene. Build your ashram there. Many thousands of years ago, I roamed in this area which was a forest then. Asuras, who were cannibals freely roamed here and troubled the peace loving sages. They abused, beat, killed the sages and even ate them. They were used to disturbing the penance of the sages. They put them through awful torture and finally killed and ate them. Same things are being re enacted now in this form. This place is filled with thieves and demons in human form. O dear, I roamed in this place thousands of years ago, but things have not changed very much. Being soft in nature you can not live here among these crooked people. So do what I say. These people will finally pay the price for the sins they committed". Saying thus, the Lord disappeared.
While they were describing this story from the yesteryears, suddenly things started falling into their place and I understood the entire story in a flash. This place is filled with negative vibes of atrocities committed on the Sages and their suffering of thousands of years. Also this place has the suffering of innocent Andhra Valmiki Vasudasa Swamy in the form of subtle vibrations. I felt the pain because my mind was tuned to these waves. I felt my chest heavy as those waves touched my heart. Tears flowed down my eyes. I realized the actual truth and continued to listen without saying anything.
As the day was dawning, the Swamy got up, left everything behind, and with just a piece of cloth on his body, descended the hill, reached Ontimitta Railway station and caught a train to Hyderabad. He lived there in the house of his devotee for some time, and reached Angalakuduru near Tenali.
To be continued..
All rights reserved. This article has been translated by Uday S which was originally posted in teluguyogi.net on Feb 2, 2010. The content or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the publisher.