Making Time and Space

We need to give each other the space to nurture…

Our life begins from childhood and its reminiscences work decisively in giving our life a precise track. If we consider our character as a splendid mansion, then these memories lie as concrete bricks at its base. Therefore, such memories are special for everyone. A biography if told chronologically has to begin with the early days of our life.

I cannot remember everything of my childhood. Nevertheless, I can still reckon some of my early days, an amalgam of both sweet and bitter memories. I have fond memories of my childhood that make me nostalgic. These memories have perhaps moulded me into what I am today. I never thought that these events would have any effect in shaping my personality, because they happened long back; but I can see that they have. Some of them make me happy; others enrich me. I have discovered that life can be “choices” for me.

The beginning of my life was simple and mediocre. I came, I saw, I conquered, as the first baby in the family always does. There was the usual amount of discussion regarding a name for me. The first baby in the family was not to be lightly named, everyone was emphatic about that. I was born on the 27th day of July 1966 in Rourkela, a steel township in Sundargarh district of Odisha. It was the auspicious month of Chariot-Festival, the world-famous Hindu festival, Ratha Jatra, associated with Lord (God) Jagannath of the beach township of Puri in the state. Odias celebrate this festival every year on Ashadha Shukla Dwitiya (second day in the bright fortnight of the month of Ashadha). The festival commemorates Lord Jagannath’s annual visit to the ‘Gundicha’ Temple in Puri with great pomp and enthusiasm. My father therefore suggested the name Jagannath, the eternal God; the savior, the Lord of the Universe. Everyone in the family was overwhelmingly excited with my name. My parents christened me as ‘Jagannath’ with the surname ‘Patnaik. As it happens in orthodox religious Odia families, Jagannath is a name they take with utmost respect and devotion. The mystical qualities that I showed from early childhood added more cream unto the milk that I am gonna describe in the next few pages.

My mother, Srimati Swarnaprabha Patnaik, is a social worker and philanthropist. My father, Sri Banabas Patnaik, a worshipper of Lord Shiva, at that time was an Agriculture teacher at the Steel Plant’s Higher Secondary School in Rourkela and later joined as a Senior Executive in the Horticulture Department of the same organization. I have heard my parents and relatives discussing among themselves that during my birth miracles took place and they had the sacred ‘darshan’ of Lord Jagannath in me; and therefore they believed that I was something exceptional and an incarnation of the God Himself.

My childhood highlights my personal mystical experiences as a spiritual seeker and philanthropist. I had the opportunity to meet Sri Sathya Sai Baba some forty years back; and since then he has as a Guru, Guardian and an Angel guided my life. I would like to share my experiences, faith and love for life with all those who have embarked upon a spiritual quest. I am told that while I was still a baby I showed many signs of an eager, self-asserting disposition. Everything that I saw other’s do, I insisted upon imitating. At six months I could pipe out “Maa” and one day I attracted everyone’s attention by saying “Jagannath” quite plainly.

They tell me I walked the day I was a year old. My mother had just given me a bath and was holding me in her lap, when I was suddenly attracted by the flickering shadows of leaves that danced in the sunlight on the smooth floor. I slipped from my mother’s lap and almost ran towards them. Once the impulse was gone, I fell down and cried for her to pick me up.

I spent my childhood in Rourkela. I understood a good deal of what was going on around me. At five I learned to fold and put away clean clothes when they were brought in from the laundry, and I distinguished my own from the rest. It was then that my father put me into a primary school there. I can well recollect those days; my heart throbbed when he took me to the Headmaster. It was a humid day; I was nervous as it was my first day at school and sweat kept flowing off my face. However, the headmaster’s smiling face and sweet words alleviated my fear. Most of the teachers were very good and helpful. I went to my classroom and all my classmates received me happily.

I was restless and curious. An appetite to apprehend the uncharted always worked within me. I was strong, active and indifferent to consequences. I knew my own mind well enough and always had my own way, even if I had to fight tooth and nail for it. I developed a number of new ideas, including spiritual practices, which I practised as devoutly. I would be at school, on time and run back home as soon as the school got over. I remember not having ever told a lie, during my school days either to my teachers or to my schoolmates. I was very shy and avoided all company; my books and my lessons were my sole companions. Every time I looked around the boys would be staring at me, it made me feel uneasy. I speak for every single shy guy in a crowded classroom. They are alienated. Actually they alienate themselves from the crowd. Therefore, I literally ran back, because I could not bear to talk to anybody. I was even afraid, lest anyone should make fun of me. Many incidents of those early years are fixed in my memory; isolated, but clear and distinct, making the sense of that silent, aimless life all the more intense.

I remember an incident that happened on the first day at school. I was not happy with my class teacher, as he did not chant a gurumantra before starting class. I told him to first chant a mantra then start teaching. I don’t know why I said this but an inner voice fought my shyness and won my conscience. It irked me again and again to move my stance for the eternal connection of the inner soul with the supreme and I said it: it was that simple. My teacher was annoyed with me and asked me to kneel down. However, it so happened that the teacher was down with fever the next day and asked me to forgive him for having punished me. Many might establish this fact as a miracle but I sense it to be the common activity of the Almighty. I smiled and asked him the same question, “Will you chant the gurumantra now?” The teacher agreed and asked me to chant the ‘Mantra.’

I am filled with wonder when I consider the immeasurable contrasts between the two lives which it connects. There are memories that make me smile in tough times. My class mates used to share everything with me. I still remember our headmaster, who used to walk around the school with a stick that made everyone scared of him. Whenever he took our class, all my class mates were afraid. Every one of them would then come to me before his class begins, and ask for ‘Bibhooti’—the holy ash. Those fellow mates who took the holy ash from me did not get any punishment, nor would the headmaster come to them. My friends loved me very much because I could always give them relief from any type of sickness they suffered from at school. If somebody suffered from acidity or indigestion, I would take him to the water point and give him a glass of water with my own hands. If someone felt febrile, I would give him anything eatable that I had, and he would get cured. I remember an incident during my childhood that fascinates me even today. One of my dearest friends did not attend school for many days continuously and I missed him every day. I was very sad. I told about it to my mother when she asked me why I was sad. She then took me to my friend’s house on my request. I found him confined to bed suffering from high fever. I went straight to him and sat at his side and put both my palms on his forehead. It was throbbing with high temperature.

When he looked at me, I felt as if he too was waiting for me to come. He expressed his happiness with a sigh of relief. He took my palm into his hands silently and looked at me; and I felt his message embedded in his looks, as if he was saying, “O Baby-Seer, my dear! Please cure me.”

I am going to digress a little here. Please bear with me. Again, it was the growth of a plant that furnished the text for a lesson. We bought a lily and set it in a sunny window. Very soon the green, pointed buds showed signs of opening. The slender, finger-like leaves on the outside opened slowly, reluctant, I thought, to reveal the loveliness they hid; once having made a start, however, the opening process went on rapidly, but in order and systematically. There was always one bud larger and more beautiful than the rest, which pushed her outer covering back with more pomp, as if the beauty in soft, silky robes knew that she was the queen of lilies by right divine, while her more timid sisters doffed their green hoods shyly, until the whole plant was one nodding bough of loveliness and fragrance.

I was happy to meet my friend and felt a tremendous urge to help him. I moved my hand on his head and conveyed to him the message in the similar manner through my eyes, “Do not worry, your aeons of maladies are gone.” I felt like doing something dramatic. I jumped from his side and went out. There were many China roses blooming at the entrance of their gate. I fetched one of them and put it at his bedside after touching it to his forehead. I asked mausi (aunt, meaning my friend’s mother) to fetch me a glass of water, chanted my gurumantra into it and asked him to drink it. Much to my own astonishment, he was in class the next day.

I do not know how it worked, but it did. Many such instances are there, when my friends were treated by me for even serious diseases, and were cured. Word went around that I had such spiritual powers to cure diseases and punish those who are not devoted to God. The incident that happened with my class teacher on my first day at school when he declined to chant a gurumantra before starting to teach and his illness the next day had also made all the teachers of our school believe. It may be the reason why none of them punished or scolded me even if I did not do my home work or did some mischief. Whenever I remember how much I enjoyed such things at that time, I find myself smiling. I just used to enjoy it like a seer or saint. My childhood days were very happy and pleasant; as my parents, teachers or class mates never beat or scolded me. It was an open secret that if anyone got angry with me, something unpleasant would happen to them.

I loved drama. Whenever there was a suggestion by the teachers about it on any occasion, I would enlist first, for the role of Gods like Rama, Krishna, Buddha, Srijagannath, Saibaba, Swami Vivekananda or any such other character having any such supernatural power. I was really fascinated by the epic and wanted to imbibe all their virtues. It may be because I really had some spiritual virtues in me or just because I had the love for it. People who saw me in role playing would come and take my blessings.

Once there were eleven tadpoles in a glass globe set on a window. I remember the eagerness with which I made discoveries about them. It was great fun to dip my hand into the bowl and feel the tadpoles move about, and to let them slip and slide between my fingers. One day a more ambitious fellow leaped beyond the edge of the bowl and fell on the floor, where I found him for all practical purposes, more dead than alive. The only sign of life was a slight wriggling of its tail. But no sooner had it returned to its element than it darted to the bottom, swimming round and round in joyous activity. It had made its leap; it had seen the great world; and was content to stay in its pretty glass house under the big fuchsia tree until it attained the dignity of froghood. Then he went to live in the leafy pool at the end of the garden, where he made the summer nights musical with his quaint love-song. Thus I learned from life itself.

From a very young age I was fascinated by the human mind and emotions. I chose the holistic field, as I prefer the idea of healing via nature and the innate mechanisms that all of us possess. The greatest enemy of our life is anger. Anger pushes the limits of our conscience and we do hilarious and erroneous activities during that span of time. I try to make people understand that. A moment of anger can make you say certain words that are irrevocable and at certain instant can bring about a loss of your near and dear ones. Anger management is my greatest strength and I have been quite an active preacher of it. I enjoyed helping people to relax and cope more easily with stress, but over the years I became increasingly frustrated that I could not help them more than that. They would talk to me about their personal issues and emotional difficulties. Although I was helping them to live with these things, I wished I could enable them to resolve those issues properly and move forward more freely with their lives. These techniques were so different to anything else I had come across. It was a wonderful moment, and my hunch proved correct. I was surprised at how intuitive I was, and how I seemed to get to the core of an issue so quickly. It seemed miraculous to me, something I had never experienced before. Nothing has come closer to what I experience these days. What I do is truly transformational.