For a few months in 2004 I lived in London as I had to attend sessions at the Guys Hospital for my MSc in Nuclear Medicine. The journey to Guy’s Hospital would normally take me an hour in the morning from Denmark Hill near King’s Cross Hospital where I lived with a friend in London to London Bridge ….. this journey happened on the overground rail service.
Normally I would pass my time by trying to learn the Krama Patha of the Rudram on my mp3 player. This was also my way of blocking out the noise from the rest of the world.
For the uninitiated, Vedic chants can be recited in a number of ways.
The most basic of these are syllable based and they progress using an arithmetical series of the syllables which form the mantra. Krama was one of these arithmetical variants.
“Te Rudra, Rudra manyave ee, Manyavaa Uto ta ish ve ee, Ishave nama ha, nama iti namaha”
The power of any of these variants was such that my mind would find itself playing back the track as if it were in my head at all times, even when I would be engrossed in something else. This was one of my ways of remembering God at all times.
One day on my way to Guys Hospital at London Bridge, I was thinking of the sweetness of the chant. I just happened to glance at the headlines of a newspaper that a fellow commuter was reading.
The headline read “Hundreds dead in a disaster!” I didn’t read any further. My mind was drawn from the sweetness of the chant into a chain of thoughts and my peace of mind was disturbed. I saw the bright sunlight outside as my mind blocked out the chant with a series of thoughts. My main thought was “Why do disasters occur, God?”
I was pondering upon this thought for quite a while. Gradually my mind became less disturbed and as I sat there, a moment of clarity struck me like a bolt from the blue. It was as if a voice said,
“It is merely the body that has died, the essence of the being -human, animal or insect- keeps living. If there is no death, how can life on earth be possible? Do not get troubled by the way someone has died for it is but predestined! Death is the only truth of life.”
With a start, I woke up.I was at London Bridge. must have nodded off on the train journey. This was highly unusual as I never sleep on short train journeys. I got off the train and started walking towards Guys Hospital.
As I wrestled with this weird idea of ‘Death being the only truth of life’, I wondered about the preconceived notion that birth is good and death is bad. We celebrate birth. However we lament death because of our emotions and attachment to physical existence.
I felt that this was a very radical thought ………even for me and I finally asked for a sign, a nimitta, an omen to confirm that what I had heard was indeed true.
The next few minutes will remain etched on my mind forever. There is a Starbucks café in front of Guys Hospital in London. As the Sree Rudram played in my ears, I suddenly caught a glimpse of a tiny object on the sidewalk. As I walked closer to it I realised that it was a single pristine Rudraksha! A tear came unbidden to my eye as I tried to grasp the enormity of God’s immense mercy. I picked it up and silently said “Jai Shiv Shambhu.”
At that moment I was at peace. All my questions had been answered. No words were necessary. Neither death, nor birth………… only Shiva exists. I keep this Rudraksha with me to help me remember this episode whenever I have doubts God’s presence in my life.
Many years on I try to imagine how impossible this scenario actually was. Finding a Rudraksha in London on a sidewalk while Shri Rudram is playing through headphones in my ears and at the same time when one asks for a sign from Shiva.
Then I remember Narada Muni’s words to a person who was performing sadhana for many births, “God is passing a camel through the eye of a needle.”
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