Spiritual practice has transformed my life completely. Due to various circumstances, my life had been getting worse and worse for several years before I started spiritual practice. After starting spiritual practice, this completely reversed and my life changed into a positive one. Below is a condensed version of what I went through before and after starting spiritual practice.
My life during my school years was fairly typical. I was well behaved and a good student, but towards the end of high school, I started drinking alcohol sometimes and I also had an interest in trying drugs. The reason for this was because others I knew were doing it. Due to misdirected curiosity I cultivated this interest.
Strangely enough, around the same time I read my first book written by a Saint, the biography of His Holiness Ramakrushna Paramahansa. Somehow the text awakened some desire within me to know God and experience Him, but I had no idea how to do this.
Due to reading about drugs online, I read that some people said you could find God through drugs. As a result, my interest about this grew and I started thinking of taking psychedelic drugs like LSD to experience God. I tried meditating and doing spiritual practice in different ways, but it was difficult due to my bad habits so I thought drugs would be a good way to satisfy my curiosity.
During the beginning of the year in 2007, I got access to a steady source of LSD, and I entered one of the darkest periods of my life. The drug did not give me an experience of God, but instead it slowly crippled me emotionally and, as I later learned, spiritually as well. I tried meditating while using marijuana and LSD and I felt overwhelming feelings that would leave me feeling weak and drained afterwards. I developed insomnia and had strange dreams when I did sleep. I found it difficult to socialize normally when this was not a problem before, and I closed myself off from others. I remember thinking once that I do not even know how to talk to others. I would even become extremely emotional over small incidents when this was completely contrary to my normal nature.
Intuitively, I started to understand that something was attacking me, but without any knowledge of the subtle dimension, I did not know what to do to come out of this state. I stopped using drugs intermittently for some periods and focused on doing different kinds of spiritual practice that I read about online or in spiritual texts, to get better. I sometimes felt relief for some days due to these different practices, but the symptoms always came back. Sometimes I would find myself unable to stop myself from drinking or using marijuana and so would return to my old habits.
When I was graduating from college, I had no friends, though I had been popular in high school. I realized what psychedelic drugs had done to me, but I concluded that the solution was to drink alcohol, party and enjoy myself; so I could make up for what I missed in college. I connected with people I knew from before on Facebook and made it a point to go to every party I could find. In my mind I wanted to distance myself from what I had become in college and I felt that this was the best way to do this.
Inevitably, I started using harder drugs like cocaine and various pills when I got access to them, and that is when things started to go downhill.
Though I was having fun at first due to the sheer novelty of everything, soon the fun disappeared and I began to feel internally empty. I did not realize it, but my average level of happiness, which was already low since college, was reducing further.
I had started studying in a graduate school in the meantime, but I was not really focused on my studies. I was more focused on partying. Many times, after a night of drinking, I would drive while I was drunk and think nothing of it. However, one time I got arrested for drinking and driving. I was scared and confused, but when I got out of jail, I felt that it was a just a coincidence and that it would not happen again. It was at this time that I first found the SSRF website. I thought the material on the site was interesting, but somehow it was not yet time for me to start spiritual practice properly.
I tried to clean up my act due to having been arrested and actually did get better for some time. I remember feeling happier during this period, but I was not fully convinced that I would give up drinking forever. A few months later, I visited my hometown and met up with an old friend. We almost immediately started drinking and using drugs again, and this time I started to party even more excessively than I had in a long time. One night, as I drove home drunk, I got arrested for drinking and driving a second time. The jail I was kept in had worse criminals this time and I remember promising God that I would never drink again if He let me out from jail. However, when I got out I returned to my old habits yet again.
The court had ordered me to have a device installed in my car that analyzed my breath for alcohol before I could drive (an alcohol Breathalyzer), but I would use drugs to get around this or drink and not drive. One time, I drank with some friends and thought I would be okay to blow in the Breathalyzer since it had been a few hours since my last drink. I blew positive and realized that the court handling my drinking and driving case would see the positive reading when I took my car to recalibrate the Breathalyzer (the Breathalyzer needed to be recalibrated monthly and at this time any positive alcohol readings would get detected). It was at this point that I finally realized from inside that I had to stop drinking and using drugs.
I was scared and I realized I had to change at this point. I resolved to stop drinking and using drugs and I remembered the SSRF website. I thought it would be good to try what was written on the site since nothing else had worked. I began to chant as per the religion of my birth and do the Shrī Gurudev Datta for several hours a day. At the time, I had a job that required driving all over my city, so I would take the opportunity to chant while driving. I found it easy to chant and though it was hard to control my desire to drink, it was actually possible, which was not the case before. I would feel spiritual healing happening sometimes while chanting and I was eager to experience more.
A few months later, I found out that the court wanted me to serve 5 days of jail time for the positive reading on the Breathalyzer. I thought this was unfair since I was finally trying to change. I continued chanting more diligently due to the fear of jail and what may happen there. I joined my first SSRF phone Company of the Truth (satsang) one week before going to jail and remember thinking the seekers conducting the satsang were very friendly and encouraging.
When I finally went to jail, I almost felt as if some force was protecting me. Almost as soon as I got in, I saw an inmate beat another inmate severely over some quarrel, but no one bothered me. I was placed to stay with inmates who were older, though I was 23, and most of these older inmates were not looking to cause anyone trouble. I continued chanting during this time and felt God only protected me. The officers in jail even let me out 2 days early.
After getting out of jail, I felt I had gotten a new chance at life due to God. I checked my email and saw an SSRF seeker had contacted me almost at the same time as I got out. I contacted him and we corresponded over email so I could ask him questions about spiritual practice. I continued chanting and began attending the weekly North American phone Satsangs regularly. The seekers conducting the Satsangs were very helpful and explained to me how what I went through was due to negative energy distress and they provided spiritual solutions to my problems.
As I continued attending Satsangs and beginning further steps in spiritual practice like rendering service to the Absolute Truth (satsēvā), doing personality defect removal and ego removal, awakening of spiritual emotion etc., I noticed that all the problems I had before were slowly disappearing. I had no desire to drink or party. My insomnia disappeared and I could talk to people easily without relying on alcohol or drugs.
It seemed the more I did spiritual practice the more I experienced stable happiness and Bliss also.
In July 2011, I got my first chance to visit the SSRF spiritual research centre in India for a spiritual retreat, and the experience left a permanent impression on me. The experience is not possible to describe, but it made me serious about personality defect removal and ego removal, which are very necessary parts of our spiritual practice. I also began making efforts to spread Spirituality as told to us and I felt a deep feeling of Bliss after doing so that I cannot describe in words.
I got a chance to travel to the SSRF spiritual research centre again in January 2012, and this time I had a chance to stay there for some time. During this time, I immersed myself in spiritual practice as per the 8 aspects of the path of Guru’s grace (Gurukrupāyoga), and I felt myself slowly transform from within.
One time a seeker was asking me about what brought me to SSRF so I started telling him all that I had been through. While telling him I felt as if some positive force was speaking through me and I felt light. At the end, the seeker said that I must be so grateful to God for all He has done for me and I broke out in tears and felt a golden light fill me from inside. This was my first experience of manifest spiritual emotion.
Several months later at the SSRF research centre, I began making prayers of surrender to God throughout the day. The first time I made a surrender prayer, I surrendered body, mind, and intellect at God’s Holy feet in subtle and actually felt myself offering them to Him. Then a golden light showered upon me and filled me up. I remember feeling this way for a long time afterwards, and for one week these prayers kept happening with similar intensity. I would tell God I know nothing, I cannot do anything and I do not have anything, so please teach me how to do spiritual practice. I would lose awareness of my body and the prayers would happen, and afterwards I would find that tears of spiritual emotion were running down my face.
These prayers left a lasting impression on me and developed a desire to increase the intensity of spiritual practice within me. I even began to look different during this period and my need for spiritual healing reduced. When I came back to the USA, I felt like a changed person and had more focus and desire for spiritual practice. Moreover, I felt a connection to God that I had not felt before going to the SSRF spiritual research center and felt that God really listened to my prayers.
I got a chance to come back to the SSRF spiritual research center again in December 2013 and I stayed for 3 months. This visit was much different from the last visit. While the last visit seemed to be about developing spiritual emotion, this visit was more about ego removal. I was placed in different situations that were difficult for me to accept. I continued to make efforts to pray and maintain communion with God to stabilize me during these times. Really, only God gave the ability to accept the situations and get spiritual practice done through me.
One of the positive things that happened during this trip is that I got married to a seeker. This seeker is an evolved seeker but she also has spiritual negative energy distress, so a lot of my ego removal happened by adjusting to situations when her distress increased. I learned a lot about myself and how I need to change through these situations, and I am still in this process of learning.
I am still going through this ego removal process after coming back to the USA, but ego removal is already having a positive effect on me. My personality defect of anger that I have had since as long as I can remember is beginning to reduce in intensity. I am more able to adjust to others and I am generally more positive even if things go against my wish.
When I look back at who I was when I started spiritual practice, I can truly say that I have come a long way. I went from being mostly miserable and caught up in tāmasik activities to being immersed in spiritual practice and feeling mostly positive. Such a transformation is only possible due to God’s grace. If someone can make as many wrong decisions as me and still receive God’s grace, I feel anyone can. I pray that others who read this article, even those in difficult situations that they feel they cannot come out of, also start spiritual practice to realize God. With spiritual practice they will be able to overcome their destiny, personality defects and ego and experience Bliss as I am experiencing now daily. I express my heartfelt gratitude to God for transforming me.