The Thousand Forms of the Lord

This was the most profound spiritual experience I had in India in 2012. The original version of this experience can be found on my old (but still actiev) Wordpress blog. This experience opened a whole new realm of spirituality and reality for me.

“We’re going to Sri Rangam!”, my cousin Roshini akka excitedly announced in the car.

I smiled silently, and kept looking out the window from the backseat, very vaguely listening to her and our family friend Sathya anna speak about the beautiful reclining Lord Vishnu of the Sri Rangam Ranganathaswamy Temple. Silence seemed to accompany me throughout my South India trip this time round. I was quite content simply soaking in the view, and feeling into spaces vibrationally.

We finally stepped into Sri Rangam the same evening that we arrived in the temple town of Thiruchirappalli (or Trichy as its widely known), after visiting two other temples in the morning. It’s a beautiful place, Sri Rangam. It’s the biggest functioning temple in the world (the biggest existing temple is Angkor Wat). And this is the only temple that has Lord Vishnu so blissfully reclining on Adishesha.

The energy that surrounds and pervades this temple is astounding. You are immediately overwhelmed, very gracefully, by its commanding presence. The sculptures, the architecture and the intricate details are so remarkable, one is left to wonder how on Earth they materialised in the first place.

As my imagination continued to roam and my body continued to soak in the immense flow of energy I was feeling, Sathya anna went off to get us our special darshan ‘passes’. One thing that I could not understand about temples in India back then was the fact that you had this option to pay some ‘fee’ to see God. I understood much later that this small fee helps with the upkeep of the temple.

Moving forward, we walked towards to Ranganatha temple. We passed a long queue of people, mostly locals, who were patiently waiting in line for their turn to see the Lord. The line stretched far to the front, and the three of us walked past all of them, into the gate that said “Special Darshan”. Again, I was filled with a feeling of uneasiness that bordered on guilt, frustration and sadness. It saddened me to see a long line of people literally waiting to catch a glimpse of the Lord. Some of them were old, some of them were just children. What sadhana (penance), just to see Him.

Our fast tracked lane landed us right in front of the Devasthanam (sanctum sanctorum). As I was about to enter the sanctum sanctorum, the priest looked at me and launched into an English explanation, that somewhat sounded like a repeating tape recorder to me.

He obviously knew I was a foreigner. I mean, who wouldn’t? I was dressed defiantly in jeans paired with a green salwar kameez top, with shades sitting comfortably on my head and hair up in a messy bun — AND I was carrying my DSLR. I wasn’t exactly dressing to fit in back then.

” Here is Lord Ranganatha, whoever sees Him and prays, all their sins will be washed away. You see, pray, ask what you want, He will give.”

Twice, this was repeated to me.

The “Special Darshan” line merged with the local line at the entrance to Lord Vishnu’s chambers, and I felt the surge of the crowd’s anxiety and eagerness to see His form upon me. The person in front of me didn’t budge, and the person behind me was pushing forward with a sense of ridiculous urgency. I was soon lost in that line of pulling and pushing. When I eventually reached the front, I had 2 seconds to glance at the Lord and leave.

Priests were repeatedly saying,” Move, Move, Move”, in Tamizh.

In less than 5 seconds, I was out of that little room. I was rather stunned — is this what you call Darshan? In a daze I looked around for Roshini akka and Sathya anna…I realised suddenly that they had just entered the Devasthanam. For some reason, the line had stopped moving, and there was a pooja that was taking place inside. I later found out some important person or VIP had entered right after they did; and so a special prayer was being conducted.

I could hear the priests chanting, I heard the temple bells ringing loudly, and the crowd responding with cries of “Govinda, Govinda!”, all as this immense surge of energy started to rise.

And yet, I was on the outside of the Devasthanam, alone and unable to see Him. I felt frustrated, lost and almost on the verge of tears, as I remember. I was desperate to see His form, I was desperate to put forth my prayer, my wish, my desire. I didn’t know where to look for Him, where to search, or even how to catch a glimpse — it was almost completely impossible. I was feeling completely defeated at this stage.

In a desperate attempt to speak to Him, my heart cried out to Swami, ” Swami, PLEASE! I want to see You NOW!!!”

Almost immediately, I heard a voice that came from my heart, from within, that simply said,” See Swami in everyone”.

In a flash, I turned to face the long line of people who were all craning their necks, trying to see what I was trying to see, and I bowed my head down and clasped my hands together in prayer.

” Sahasra Seersha Purushah, Sahasrakshad Sahasrapad.”

The One who has a thousand heads, eyes and feet…

In my mind’s eye, each and every one of those persons turned into the Universal Lord — who in turn raised both His hands in every one of those forms, in blessing, in my direction. I felt an incredible, electrifying surge of Love and complete bliss in my heart, so strong that it nearly swept me off my feet. I felt my body fill with energy that permeated from all the manifestations of divinity that I was standing before, in complete silence, soaking in all His Love.

“See Me in You.”

I was stunned beyond words. I prayed, not for what I had come to petition, but that He continues to allow me to recognise the divine presence in every single person and being around me.

We have all heard about Vishwaroopam (The Universal Form)…He had allowed me to experience that Vishwaroopam.

So did I see the famous Lord Ranganatha of Sri Rangam in the end? I leave that to you to decide.

Knowing and realising are two very different things. I’ve always known; but never fully realised. I finally realised on that day, that God resides everywhere, in every atom…and there is no need to find God outside in far lands. God is wherever you wish Him to be, in whatever form you seek. He can be a She, or neither. God is whatever name you choose.

The best place to look for the experience of divinity, in the end, is within. Have complete, unshakable Faith, for that is the basis to everything that follows suit.

As always, my eternal Gratitude to my universal guru Sathya Sai Baba, for all the lessons in Love.

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Darshana Balakumaran

Darshana Balakumaran

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Strategy director of Illuminairre, writer and spiritual seeker. Communications professional by day, creative artist by night.