When I was studying at my College in India in 2010, I got into some bad habits. I knew that this was some past life karma and for some months I did not realize how bad it would get. The next year I mustered up the courage to change myself, but the guilt was too much. The only way I could get myself out of this bad habit, and also free myself from the downward pull of guilt, was to let Swamiji know what was happening. I knew that he would help me out. Swamiji had promised me early on in our friendship that he would always be there for me.
I wrote to Swamiji and told him that I was going through this problem. Swamiji’s reply surprised me. He said to me, “I pretty well knew already. Just don’t go on that way. It’s a dead end, and leads to nothing but misery.” I immediately promised him never to do it again. I also wondered how he knew because I hadn’t told anyone. So when I asked him if someone had told him about it he said, “No, no one told me. I just know you.”
That was a fact. He knew me well, inside out. Swamiji could read me like an open book. He was like God.
Few days later I wrote again to Swamiji asking him if I should do something to purify myself from the lower consciousness I had attracted as a result of that bad habit. Swamiji simply said, “Just love God more. He will absolve you of every mistake. All human beings err, until their love for Him is perfect. You are no worse, and no better, than anyone else. He loves you just the same.” These words again surprised me. Love God more! Was that the solution to my problem? I was amazed and thanked Swamiji. From then on, I tried to love God more in ways that Swamiji used to describe: talking to the Guru, sharing our thoughts with him, chanting and singing to God, and self-offering in meditation.
At a private meeting during the following year, I asked him with a choking voice what I should do if I had fallen again (I had clearly fallen under the influence of that habit again, though not all the time). I also went on to express to Swamiji how I still longed for liberation in this life but didn’t see how I could be worthy of it at the rate I was going.
Swamiji understood my sadness and said, “You know, I used to smoke when I was 19, 20 and I wanted to become a hermit. And I thought whoever heard of a hermit who smokes? And so I tried to give it up. It took me a whole year. I kept going back to it. But every time I went back I never said I had failed. I always said, ‘I haven’t yet succeeded.’ And so that became an affirmation of final success. Finally I said to a roommate that I’m giving up smoking. ‘Oh,’ he said, ‘I’ve heard that one before.’ But no I meant it. And I had in my pocket a packet of cigarettes; I passed them out. I wasn’t even tempted. So every time you fail, get up and say I will try again. You are a child of God and make that your reality.”
And these words of Swamiji have been my anchor since then. Whenever I failed, I would tell myself I hadn’t yet succeeded in overcoming that habit and that I shouldn’t give up. With time and effort, that bad habit has gone away. Some things take longer to go than others and mine was not easy for me to get rid of.
I was so blessed to have Swamiji’s love despite the unworthiness I felt from within. I didn’t respect myself for falling again and again, but Swamiji had compassion for me and had faith in me that I would overcome that negative habit someday. I thank you Swamiji with all my heart for not judging me for my follies. I feel very grateful that you helped me forgive myself and encouraged me to keep trying till I succeeded.
I hope we can all learn something important from Swamiji’s advice to me. His way of helping me overcome that habit was how a saint would help his disciple. Let’s never forget that to reach the level of a saint, we inevitably will make many mistakes on the way. But the point is to never give up till we can reach there. Swamiji put it aptly when he said, “A saint is a sinner who never gave up!” Thank you Swamiji!