In search of Purpose of Life:
I had chosen the path of service immediately after I completed my graduation at homeopathic college, Mumbai in 1993. My graduation in Homeopathy and opportunity to work with Dr Rajan Sankaran, world renowned homeopath created a strong foundation for understanding health in terms of mind-body-soul state, the holistic way. After my internship, I shifted to Vadodara where I got introduced to a fledgling NGO. My age was 22.
Soon, I started my medical practice. While treating patients, I realized that wellness or health is all about personal responsibility, prevention, self-care and healing rather than cure and medicines. People need to be educated about wellness and healthy living principles rather than just treated with medicines.
I quit my growing homeopathic practice after 3 years and started working full time with the NGO. I was invited on the Trustees Board soon and remained so for about 5 years. In 16 years of my association with the NGO, I worked in slums, city, rural areas, in USA, and successfully handled many service projects which helped me find the purpose and mission of my life.
In 1996, I did my first 500 hours Yoga Teachers Training Course at Yoga Niketan, Vadodara. I stood second in my class of 100 students. I started practicing and teaching yoga off and on but could not pay much attention. In 1997, I did 10 day silence program at Vipasana Shibir.
In 2007, I was sent to Bangalore to expand one of the preventive health projects and take it to new heights which I did very effectively.
Here I started practising yoga seriously and slowly started teaching more regularly. Soon I became popular among my students. This motivated me to start my small yoga studio – Wellness and Life Style Excellence in HSR Layout. Based on my understanding of the philosophy of yoga, I passionately started promoting healthy life style concepts and habits which help people to discover their true health potentials, hidden healing power and thus help people to heal themselves and others and give their best to the world.
For me, teaching is healing, loving, learning, improving, and excelling. I learnt Iyengar Yoga for 3 years and did lot of other ‘spiritual shopping’. I compiled and published a small booklet – Spirit of Yoga comprising 100 quotes on Yoga which gave a quick understanding of yoga. I wrote regularly in leading newspapers in Bangalore – Indian Express, Deccan Herald, Bangalore Mirror — and also gave a talk on radio. Yoga became my passion and my mission, I believed.
But something was missing. I started realizing that my mission cannot be accomplished without a Guru’s guidance. I was strongly missing a Guru in my life. I had the intense desire to go to Gurukul as described in the ancient yoga scriptures and learn yoga from an unpretentious Yogi and Guru who can could bless and guide my life and yoga path.
Art of Living Journey Begins:
I did my first Art of Living Course during Diwali 2009 at the heavenly Bangalore Ashram. I liked the course very much as it delivered the profound knowledge in the simplest way. Something happened inside and keeps happening as I continue the practice of Sudarshan Kriya day after day, every single day.
HE will do whatever you tell HIM to do:
I did my first Advanced Meditation Course soon after which gave I got the first opportunity to see Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar closely. During the day time, Sri Sri personally guided us into meditations, in the evening He enthralled us with mind-blowing discourses on the highest knowledge unveiled in the Ashtavakra Gita. The meditations gave me very deep experiences. On the last day, came the Darshan Line about which I did not know anything. We were about 350 participants. While we were waiting for Sri Sri at the meditation hall, some participants started sharing their course experiences. And as Sri Sri entered, people went crazy…the air was charged with bliss love and devotion. HE met every single person with equal commitment, sincerity and love.
I was touched by this very beautiful expression of life’s higher side . As He came to me, not knowing what else to do, I just bowed down to His feet. Gurudev blessed me a rose and went ahead. Someone told me that Sri Sri likes to give whatever one asks him for. I was shocked to hear this. I was tempted and went up to him and requested him to bless my booklet (symbolically my mission and desire)! He put his hand on it and blessed!! I found him to be a person of rock solid integrity unlike other so called gurus of current time. I told myself, “I can make him my GURU.” But will he accept me as a disciple, I doubted.
My First ‘Date’ with the Divine:
I did many other courses like DSN, Sri Sri Yoga TTC, Sahaj Samadhi Meditation, Ayurvedic Cooking, etc. and started coming to Art of Living Ashram regularly for Sunday satsang. I repeated my Part 1 course at ashram with Dr Richa during Janmashtami 2011. I had brought a nicely carved flute as a gift for Sri Sri. On the first day of the course itself, Dr Richa gave us the good news that Sri Sri would be meeting us today or tomorrow!! Next day we all went to meet HIM. As He came to me, I gifted gim the flute. He smiled and asked, “Are you happy?” I replied, “Yes, very happy.My name is Sejal and run a full-time Yoga Center in Bangalore”. He said, “Very good.” I sought his blessings to translate his commentary on Patanjali Yoga Sutras into Gujarati. I was so happy; I wanted to hug him but was very hesitant. HE went further. I could not resist my desire to hug HIM, so I went into the second row, He came and passed by, and I could not hug. I went to the third row and gathered all the courage and asked him, “Can I hug you?” “Yes”, came the reply and I hugged. Later, to my surprise, somebody came up to me and told me that I have taken your picture with Gurudev! I was over joyed. I told myself, “Yes, HE is my GURU.”
HIS Mission is My Mission:
That was the 30th year of the Art of Living. Sri Sri himself was going to teach the Art of Living Part 1 course after about 30 years! Without any second thought, I registered and attended. OMG, what an experience it was! Something very strong, mysterious happened inside. A powerful force was pulling me towards Him. A clear voice came from within, “HE IS MY GURU and I WANT TO WORK FOR HIS MISSION, HIS MISSION IS MY MISSION.”
I ignored this voice for some time thinking I am being emotional. I have my own mission, why should I work for someone else’s mission? I had read in the ‘GURU’ book that the Divine chooses the devotee…Has HE chosen me? There is not even a single indication! The mind was filled with many such doubts and questions! This was the time I was searching a bigger place to expand my yoga center, but very strangely I could not put my 100% in this which is unlike of me. Inside there was strange resistance to do this.
The Best Birthday Gift Ever:
My birthday was approaching. I felt unusual, child-like enthusiasm to celebrate it in a way like never before. It was falling on Monday. A week prior to it, I called up Art of Living Ashram to find out whether Sri Sri is at ashram for Rudra Puja. Getting a positive reply, I decided to attend the Monday morning Rudra Puja with Gurudev and take his blessings. I wanted to give him something very special and wanted to prepare it myself. I decided to make the healthiest cake based on Ayurveda cooking method. To my surprise, I was reading the latest issue of Rishimukh, the Art of Living magazine, and the page that I opened first featured a cake recipe based on Ayurveda cooking method!!! Many other strange co incidences happened, which I am not mentioning here. I made two different flavored steamed cakes for Gurudev using only organic ingredients and without sugar, butter, maida, yeast, and eggs.
Something inside me propelled me to write a letter to him the previous day. So on the D-Day, I was sitting in Puja with the sankalpa, “Let my life be used for seva 100%”. After the Rudra Puja, Sri Sri put a garland on me and cut the cake. One after the other, people came to me asking for the ‘prasadam’. I had made the cake for Him, how I can give to others, I thought. But I found myself helpless, could not say no to anybody, about 100-150 people took tiny bit of prasadam; Somehow I saved a one big piece for Sri Sri. Straight away I went to his secretariat. Shabanam was sitting there. I told her that I have made this cake for Gurudev, can you please take it to HIM? Shabnam readily agreed. I handed over the box and letter to her. She immediately left for Ganga and I went for kitchen for breakfast. I was in hurry to reach back to my yoga center for the next yoga class.
I had very little hope that Gurudev would eat the cake and read my letter that day itself. While I was driving back home, my phone rang. Due to heavy traffic, I didn’t pick up the call. After about 2 hours, I got the phone again from the same number, I picked up. The person calling said, “I am Gurudev’s secretary speaking. I believe that you have given a letter to Gurudev in morning. Regarding this please come and meet me today or tomorrow.” And we fixed up the time for the next day. I was amazed. Gurudev is super quick, I thought! Next day Swami Vishnupad ji and Kishore Prasad ji talked to me informally for about an hour. I was told to go for lunch and again come and meet. They got busy and I kept waiting. Finally at 3.30pm, Kishor ji called me and just one sentence, “You have to shift to ashram in seven days’ time.” I was shocked. I knew this must be Gurudev’s decision only. Still just to reconfirm, I asked him, “This is what Gurudev told?” “Yes,” he replied.
I didn’t know how to respond to this. My mind was full of all different kind of emotions. On my way back, I met my first Art of Living teacher and shared this news with him. He said, “This is His sankalpa now. You just do whatever He has told and shift to ashram in 7 days. Rest He will take care.” And He has really taken care, so much so, beyond my imagination.
I decided to close the center and shifted to ashram on the 7th day.
I had mentioned in the letter to Guruji, “Today is my 43rd birthday. On this day I would like to dedicate my whole life to you and your mission. Your acceptance for the same would be the best birthday gift ever.”
Wow!!! What a birthday gift it has been; I asked for one, He gave innumerable. Gift of heavenly home, Gift of new big family, Gift of limitless opportunities to expand my passion for yoga and healthy living; Gift of infinite possibilities to do seva, Gift of series of small and big miracles, most importantly Gift of staying close to Him and be with the knowledge, Gift of countless occasions to learn and unlearn and to grow, the list is endless!!!
Life has taken a complete upward turn, unexpectedly superfast yet very smooth. “If you take one step, the Divine takes the hundred!” So true are these words.
Sharing my story on this day of Guru Purnima is such a blessing! I hope and I pray that may my entire existence, be the expression of my GRATITUDE TOWARDS MY GURU and be used for accomplishment of His mission.
Dr. Sejal Shah is a Wellness and Certified Yoga Teacher and Homoeopath teaching yoga since 9 years, serving at the Sri Sri Yoga National Desk and member of Yoga Academic Council at Sri Sri University, Odhisha.