Anahata — Part 2 (Pagla Baba Trilogy)

NOTE: I had published this on Sulekha.com in 2002  
 
Prelude

Anahata — that soft, melodic, soothing music.
I can't hear it play; yet I hear it playing somewhere (perhaps from within?), encompassing my totality …

It all started a few years after my encounter with Pagla Baba in that desolate stretch by the highway.
I went back a changed man after that meeting… Baba's touch had changed my life forever… and everything was wonderful for the next few months.
I started to exercise, developed healthy habits and gradually my capacity to cope with all kinds of stress increased manifold.
Until one day, I felt an irresistible urge to learn Yoga.
I'd tried Yoga before (in my school, they'd flock us all together into a huge gym and make us do these incredibly boring moves called Sun Salutation or something), I hated it!
So, that Saturday morning, lying in bed, when I got these vivid flashes of Yoga postures and an uncontrollable urge to perform them, I was surprised.
I knew I was going to hate it (or so I thought… ), but decided to give it a shot anyway.
There's a famous Yoga school a few kilometers from my house. I decided to pay them a visit. I got on my cycle and pedaled away to the Yoga school.

The School

The school was a little place, on the corner of a busy street.
The teacher was a middle-aged lady called Mrs. Janaki Iyer. She was the fittest person I'd seen in a long time, about 5'4” tall, trim, slim and calm.
I asked her whether she could accommodate me in one of her classes and she said yes.
In fact there was a class in another 20 minutes and she told me I could attend it and see for myself (she must've realized that I was a bit apprehensive about joining up).
Well, since I had my exercise clothes on, I decided to try it out.
Mrs. Iyer greeted us all and gave a short discourse on Yoga (it was the first class for the entire batch) and its different branches. I was surprised to learn that what is commonly called Yoga is only a portion of a vast field and it's actually termed Hatha Yoga.
She then started off by teaching a few very simple poses. Trikona Asana, Lolasana (which was not so easy) and all the relatively easier beginner's asanas.
I wasn't really impressed that much, I guess it takes time for it to grow on to become a liking…
Anyhow, I returned home and diligently practiced Yoga, attending the Yoga school and repeating the exercises at home.
Within a month I realized that my body had grown more flexible and I seemed to be growing younger (with the muscles firming up without getting too bulky) and everyone told me that there was something very pleasant about me.
I started to feel light and happy, seldom getting affected by stress and a sense of calm and gentle coolness permeated my being. It was almost as if I had taken a long vacation in some remote mountains (the Himalayas). A sense of awe towards my environment was growing, and I could look at things and appreciate their beauty.
A simple thing like looking at the bark of a tree gave me a sense of immense joy.
As the months went by, I was totally hooked on to Hatha Yoga. I advanced in the practice and I could perform the Sirshasana (head stand) for almost an hour at a stretch! “This is paradise,” I used to think.

Topsy-turvy

One day suddenly, my life turned topsy-turvy…
I had made a routine of practicing Yoga twice a day, once in the early morning (around 5 a.m.) and once in the evening (around 7 p.m.) when I got back from work.
Some strange sensations had been lurking around in my body, something that I couldn't explain.
I'd get a sense of vertigo in my belly (near the navel), an unusual gentle vibration would affect me there. I asked my doctor about it and he suggested that it might be anything from flatulence to appendicitis. He gave me a complete medical and sent me packing home with a clean chit.
He said, “Vyas, you've never been in better health, and I've been your doctor for over 10 years now… go home and don't let this bother you.”
So I decided to ignore the sensations.
The day it happened, I had stood in Sirshasana for about an hour in the morning and as usual, feeling great, I went through the motions of the day. Until about 3 p.m. that afternoon. I started getting these vibrations in my navel, rising up to my chest; there was no pain, but I felt as though I was having a heart attack.
I got out of office early and drove back home. By the time I got home, the discomfort had stopped.
I sat down brooding (I knew something was not normal) in introspection.
When I analyzed the discomfort, I realized that there was no pain as such… it was more like some type of electricity was pulsating at the afflicted region.
I decided to skip Yoga and went to bed after a light supper.
I woke up hearing a loud knocking sound on the wall of my bedroom!
It was the most violent knocking sound I have heard in a long time — it was almost as though someone was trying to pound his/her way into the room.
I looked at the watch; it was 3:00 a.m. The knocking stopped and again I lay down to sleep, when the knocking/pounding started again.
This time I got out of bed and decided to check outside the house. There weren't too many houses around in those days, and I quickly realized that there was no one outside (no one to play a wicked trick on me).
As I stepped back into my bedroom, the pulsations in my belly started again.
It moved from my navel to my chest (near the center, next to the heart) and the entire region was throbbing, pulsating (as if some out-of-breath animal was hiding in my body).
My hands and feet were turning hot and I was sweating profusely.
And then I heard the sounds — they seemed to float into my ears from a distance — the sweet melody of a flute playing some soulful tune, the howling of winds (it was perfectly calm and still outside), the sound of someone singing some familiar raaga.
My body was pulsating and the music playing in rhythm (or was it the other way… can't say for sure).
I don't know how long I sat in that position, on the edge of the bed, shivering (even though I was sweating and feeling extremely hot)… maybe an hour or two.
Eventually the shaking stopped and I fell into a dreamless stupor.

The Next Day

I woke up at about 7 a.m. the next morning thinking about the nightmare I had.
Then I realized it was not a nightmare, it was real — I called in at work and told them I wouldn't be going to work that day. I went to the doctor.
The doctor checked me again and said, “Vyas, I've ordered ECG, EEG and blood tests for you, go down to the lab and get them done…” “Oh! And come back here once you're done there, I want to talk to you…” he added.
I went downstairs to the lab, got the tests and trudged back into Dr. Singh's office.
He was waiting for me. He said, “Come, let's go get some coffee…” Now, I've know Dr. Singh for over 10 years, and he's never tried to be very friendly with me… I was kind of taken aback.
Over a cup of coffee, he asked me, “So what was it you took last night?” I was describing my supper when he interrupted me with, “What kind of drugs are you on Vyas?” Before I could say anything, he said, “Don't get me wrong, but the symptoms you mentioned, as far as the physical sensations and music are concerned, are typical of certain hallucinogenic drugs and psychotropic plants…”
I cut in hurriedly, “Doctor I haven't even had a drop of alcohol in the past few years, let alone drugs!”
He replied, “I'm sorry, but that's what it seemed to me… let's wait for the reports before we decide what to do…. okay?”
I nodded and told him I was tired and wanted to go home and rest. I drove off towards home.
One the way, I felt like dropping in and talking with Mrs. Iyer (my Yoga teacher).
It was about 10:30 a.m. and she was relatively free (with only a few of her foreign students around). She saw me and greeted me with a smile and twinkle in her eyes.
I felt extremely calm talking with her — I told her about whatever had happened.
Mrs. Iyer looked at me with sympathy.
She sat pondering and then said “Vyas, I don't know whether this might be of any help or not, but there have been cases, such as the one you've described, due to Hatha Yoga practice… ”
She continued noticing my interest (I had to be interested, I felt like I was going nuts or something). “There is a certain power that lies dormant in our bodies that can be awakened by psychic exercises like Hatha Yoga and Pranayama… ”
“Superficially, these are excellent forms of exercise and oxygenation methods… but when the practitioner reaches a certain level of mastery or sometimes if he/she has a knack for it, the dormant energy in the body is awakened,” she said.
“What made you want to come and learn Yoga here, Vyas?” Mrs Iyer asked.
“I don't know, I just had the strongest urge to learn Hatha Yoga the day I first came to meet you… I actually saw someone performing some asanas in my head… or let me see… I visualized that someone was performing asanas and I simply had to learn Yoga,” I replied.
“What's that got to do with my being sick anyway?” I asked.
She replied, “I was getting there… when this energy gets awakened, it is said to rise upward from the base of your spine to the crown of your head, crossing seven gates or plexuses on its way. Have you heard of chakras?”
I said, “Yes… something to do with the phantom body and its energy centers or something, right?”
“Close enough…. chakras are like distributors of energy in our body, some equate it to the endocrine system, some say it's not in our physical body, but in our astral body. But anyway, when this energy (called Kundalini Shakti) rises, it causes all sorts of problems, some similar to what you're experiencing,” she said.
“I'm just surprised that someone who's had only about a year's practice of Hatha can actually feel it… I've been doing Yoga for more than 50 years and nothing's affected me that way,” she added.
She asked me to let her know what the doctor says about the medical reports.
I went home and fell asleep almost immediately.

Those Eyes
I dreamt aimlessly, and then, all of a sudden I saw those eyes… they almost woke me up… those wild and yet calm eyes… the paradox of reality (wild yet calm… imagine that!)
The face that wore those eyes came to focus, it was Pagla Baba.
Baba said almost tauntingly, “So, Vyas has had a snake crawling up his spine, huh?”
I was confused and wondering whether I was awake or asleep, when Baba said to me, “You are awake now, you go back to sleep once you wake up…” and started laughing loudly.
“That's beside the point, Vyas,” he said, “there is a reason for which you are experiencing all this.”
“That silent sound, that's heard without ears… that is Anahata… the dhwani from another realm… it rises from your own heart. Do not be afraid of it… ” Baba said.
“The snake that's crawling up your body, its bite is fatal though, the poison is called truth the death is called knowledge… be very careful of it. But don't be afraid, embrace it and it will treat you well… reject it and your fears will drive you insane,” he added.
“Yeah right! How much more insane can I get, talking to a loony hermit in my dreams…” I thought, when I got a knuckle on my head, “Ouch! That really hurt…” I looked at Baba's grinning face and said.
“I'll be back when you need me, meanwhile, continue with the Sirshasana, that'll help speed things up,” Baba said, and I woke up.

Not the end…

Dr. Singh called and asked me to meet him at his office in the hospital.
I rushed over to his office and he looked at me and said, “Vyas, the reports have come in…. you are perfectly normal… in peak health, like I'd said earlier. Are you sure you didn't take anything that day?”
I smiled and said, “Yes Doctor, I'm perfectly sure of that…”
I thanked him, paid the front office and left for my office.
That day went by rather uneventfully… I managed to get some work done.
That night, the throbbing was back, and this time it felt like I had a stepper motor whirring in my chest, I can swear that I heard a clicking sound from inside. And then the music started.
My head was spinning with confusion and I felt nauseous with fear.
But, somehow, my body was reacting to the music in a strange way, it was feeling relaxed like I had just finished an hour or two of Yoga.
I was breathing like a 100-meter sprinter one moment and not breathing at all another.
The music started getting a little louder and the throbbing rose to my throat (just above the Adam's apple), and then to my forehead and the entire region vibrating as though it were a string of a musical instrument.
My eyes closed automatically and I didn't know what was happening to me; all of a sudden, a bolt of electricity shot up from the navel to my head and everything stopped.
Time stood still, it seemed…. not a thing moved, not another sound, there was only silence.
I don't remember how long I sat like that. I could hear the birds chirping in the morning and I got up and went on with the morning routine: Yoga, change clothes, start the car, office.
The day went by as though in a few seconds, everything seemed to move so fast; yet I was going in slow-motion, everything was slow, I could observe everything in great detail.
I got back home and had a frugal meal. I went to bed early, and as I slept I heard this voice describing something in great detail.
It was a form of breathing, with the tongue sticking back into the mouth such that its tip touched the end of the nasal cavity. The voice seemed familiar, I realized it was Pagla Baba.
He described the technique and said it was called the Kechari Mudra.
I tried it the next morning; it was very difficult, the tongue moving backward into the mouth tended to gag me and I'd throw up or gasp for breath.
It took me a few months to master this technique, but once I managed to do it, I found instant bliss, energy and peace.

An Afterthought

I researched into the history of Kundalini, and found that for thousands of years, ascetics have strived to awaken her (according to Tantra traditions, this energy is feminine in nature — being Shakti, and she is called MahaKundalini, the coiled serpent).
Those who have succeeded have described experiences similar to mine.
It is said that one should embark on such a journey with the blessings and teachings of an adept, a Guru. There is a lot of work that needs to go into the awakening of Kundalini, without which the person undergoing the awakening might lose his/her mind out of fear!
Something that almost happened to me…
I also found that a lot of people all over the world experience sudden awakening (without even actively wanting to, or even knowing about it, like myself). Some of these people lose their mind, especially the ones who are not brought up with the safety of Indian philosophy.
Some of these people in the West believe that it is the Devil's work and miss out on this glorious experience, or ruin it for themselves with fear.
For me, the silent sound is bliss, the melody beyond melody itself.

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