Mahaperiyava’s Boundless Compassion: “Why Don’t You Try To Imbibe My Air?”
An employee of a reputed bank lived in Chennai with his family, comprising of his parents and his two sisters. The family was devoted to Mahaperiyava and especially the bank employee. Being the eldest child to middle-class, retired parents, he shouldered the responsibility of educating and marrying-off his siblings. Life went on smoothly enough for him until one day while at work, he noticed itchy, red bumps on his body. Not paying heed to this, he continued on with work. Upon his return home, he realized that the itching and the bumps had increased and were now accompanied by burning. Surmising that it could be prickly heat due to the unbearable weather of Chennai, he resorted to getting relief with medicated talc and other quick fixes. But the itching continued on relentlessly day in and day out.
Visits to dermatologists brought no lasting relief. Several trials with allopathic medicines, ayurvedic balms and potions, naturopathic treatments later, he concluded that his ailment had become chronic. Through daily prayers and appeals to Mahaperiyava, he carried on with life, doing his work to the best of his abilities. Years rolled on but the unremitting onslaught of his mysterious illness persisted.
Nearly ten years later, during a particularly inclement summer, his suffering became so intolerable that he was unable to concentrate and complete his assigned tasks. Unable to endure the agony, he shed tears of frustration in front of Periyava’s picture and beseeched him for final relief from his affliction. It was then that he had a terrible thought—he would terminate his life! For what was the point in living thus? He had enough savings to see his parents through the end of their lives; his sisters were married and settled in life.
Assailed by such thoughts, he fell into a troubled sleep. Suddenly, he saw Periyava asking him, “Why don’t you try to imbibe my air?” Startled by the question, he realized that he had had a dream. Mahaperiyava’s words seemed so real, His voice so palpable and yet His enigmatic words puzzled him. How can anyone imbibe or consume air? What is “Periyava’s air?” How would anyone be able to obtain it anyway? Such were the thoughts that bombarded his head. Confused, he went to work the next morning all thoughts of suicide forgotten.
Day and night, he wondered how he could get “The Air.” He was so preoccupied with his quest that he was slowly forgetting the severity of his itchy affliction. A new ‘itch’ had replaced the old one. But never once did he dismiss Mahaperiyava’s nocturnal visit as a mere dream. His strong faith propelled him to go to Kancheepuram to seek out Periyava and ask Him directly to unravel the meaning of His perplexing words.
But he met with disappointment when he learnt that Mahaperiyava was away from the Mutt touring nearby villages. Hoping to gain some clarity, he enquired one of the helpers at the Mutt for the meaning of Periyava’s words. Hearing the strange question, the helper shot him a look that suggested that instead of seeking relief for his skin ailment, he should perhaps find a remedy for mental imbalance!
Determined to find Periyava’s ‘Air’, he followed him during his pada yatra. Each time he tried to approach Mahaperiyava, there was either a huge crowd or he would miss Him narrowly. This hide and seek went on for nearly nine months.
One day during his relentless ‘chase’, the bank employee stood eagerly pushing aside the crowd to get a glimpse of Periyava. It was near the banks of Cauvery that Mahaperiyava was stationed and the crowd had gathered there to get His blessings. Unexpectedly the crowd parted and there was a clear line of sight between Periyava and the devotee. At once he felt a soothing, enveloping, gentle breeze that engulfed his body. He experienced the ‘Air’entering his body through his nostrils and mouth. Here he was finally, imbibing Mahaperiyava’s ‘air’!
Time stood still; what seemed like eternity was a mere passage of a few seconds. He stood there relishing the extraordinary experience, while the true meaning of Mahaperiyava’s words dawned on him. He returned home after the miraculous experience – his frustration and agony completely forgotten.
After a deep and relaxing sleep early the next morning, the bank employee had another visitation from Periyava in his dream, “You have taken away all my air,” said Periyava with compassion flowing from his soulful eyes. “How are you feeling now?” The grateful devotee overwhelmed by His boundless compassion, remarked, “O Periyava, you are Pranava, the cosmic originator of prana vayu or the life-giving air. How can I take away all this air that flows from you perennially? Thank you, thank you, my savior.”
Cured of his chronic ailment, the bank employee visited Kancheepuram again after a few months. He reluctantly told Periyava that his family was compelling him to enter into wedlock now that he is cured of his illness by the grace of His Holiness. He was reluctant because he was already 44 years of age and wanted to spend the rest of his life serving His Holiness. Mahaperiyava blessed him thus, “Comply with the wishes of your parents. Get married, continue your family lineage, grow and prosper!”
Let us ponder for a moment: why did this faithful devotee of Periyava suffer thus for nearly 11 years? Mahaperiyava can cure instantaneously, miraculously and yet why did he allow such suffering to continue? Were His devotee’s prayers insincere? Why does the Guru or God allow untold suffering in the world?
Let us not forget that the divine guru waits with open arms to pour His blessings, but the devotee will receive it only when he is ready karmically. We all arrive with our karmic baggage which needs to be dissolved and played out. The devotee’s strong faith in guru’s words provides the strength to bear the suffering. But our guru, Mahaperiyava will NEVER forsake the devotee. He dispenses justice according to divine law in divine time. Let us all abide by His Words, “Patience, Perseverance, and Peace.”