Prior to writing “Ramayana”, Valmiki was known as Ratnakara – a highway robber. It is said that he obtained knowledge by repeating the name of Sri Rama in the reverse. The story narrates the glory of the name Rama.
Ratnakara spent his time in the forest, looting travelers. One day he attacked a group of seven saints who had nothing to offer to the robber other than the name of “Rama”.
The seven sages told about the glory of the name Rama and the treasure it can unfold. They told him that the name is the key to the true treasure of life.
Ratnakara was so immersed in his wrongdoings that he was unable to utter the word “Rama.”
As a solution, the sages then asked him to repeat the name in the reverse order. Thus, Ratnakara started chanting the name: Mara.
Mara…Mara…Mara soon became Rama… Rama…Rama.
Over time, Ratnakara became so fond of repeating the name that he became a pious saint.
I am no saint but the above story is quite true in my life. Years ago, I was a staunch non-believer of God or spirituality and never cared about the world around me. Arrogance was my second name. My world was a fantasy and I was the protagonist. I did all possible sins that landed me in trouble many times and I constantly succeeded in annoying people with my tantrums.
I lived as I pleased and nothing more mattered. Living like there was no tomorrow, I enjoyed everything the material world had to offer. I was a heavy smoker and drinker, and I ate meat every day. Unhealthy food and lifestyle habits wrecked my body, causing health issues and damaging my immune system to the degree I was sick more often than not. I took pills all my life and overmedicated myself at the slightest sign of discomfort.
When the Bollywood movie, Sanju, was released, my friends said it reminded them of me. It was a wakeup call. I felt ashamed at that moment because I realised how painful that would have been for my parents. A totally ignorant life.
I didn’t have to be reborn to be like Valmiki, rather maybe I am one of the few to have realised what is the real purpose of life. My new path wasn’t immediate, however. When my wife did her Teachers’ Training course, I didn’t try simple things that she asked me to. Even my own TTC wasn’t for the right reasons at first. I wanted to earn money and be independent, because I was moving to the US for good.
Little did I know that the 3 months course would be transformative and change the value system in me. I started looking at life with a completely different lens. As an actor on stage for many years, I had become very critical about life but Yoga gave me a different perspective towards humanity. I started appreciating the beauty of life and loving people.
Physical practices brought a lot of confidence and eliminated health issues gradually and in fact, I could overcome some very serious injuries in my body like Coccydynia and because of a major train accident in childhood, I had multiple fractures on my left foot, fracture in the pelvic bone, dislocation in my left shoulder and many other fractures, bruises, stitches on my entire body. The simple technique of Jalaneti made my immune system strong and I no longer rely on medication-- I haven’t had a cold in three years. The magic of yoga astounded me and gave me the humility I desperately needed.
When I saw these changes in my life, it gave me the faith to believe in a higher reality and recognize the truth in the scriptures. My relatives and friends don’t recognise me anymore because my life has taken a 360 degree turn and my bad habits and vices are gone for good. Yoga gave me firm determination to never go back and suffer. I never thought I would be doing headstands and teaching philosophy to students from all across the globe at The Yoga Institute for TTC, but here I am. I’m pursuing my Masters in Yoga from SVYASA University.
I am not telling all this to gain fame or boost my ego because that truly is the last thing I want. If my story can help some and work as an eye opener, I will be fulfilled. I can’t change my past but I have the power to shape my future because I am living consciously in the present. If I could do it, then anyone in this world can do it. I give this credit to all my teachers and students, without whom I would not have been able to learn more and change my life. I thank my family for supporting me in everything, my faith in Sai Baba and the courage I get from reading Swami Vivekananda.
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