The first part of this story took place when I was seven years old, and its conclusion when I was twenty-eight. When I was seven, several learned pandits and astrologers from Banaras were invited by one of my relatives to consider my future. India is famous for this science. You will find many charlatans, but you’ll also find genuine astrological practitioners. If you decide to consult one, he may write a description of your whole life before you meet him. It will be waiting for you when you arrive, even if you have not told anyone you are going to see him. Such an ability is rare, but it is quite genuine.

I was standing just outside the door, listening to these astrologers. They all said, “This boy is going to die at the age of twenty-eight.” They even gave the exact day.

I was so upset that I started sobbing. Then I thought, “I have such a short span of time. I will die without accomplishing anything. How am I possibly going to complete the mission of my life?”

My master came to me and inquired, “Why are you weeping?”

“I am going to die,” I told him.

He asked, “And who told you that?”

I said, “All these people,” and pointed to the astrologers gathered inside.

He took hold of my hand and said, “Come.” He took me into the room and confronted the astrologers. “Do you really mean to say that this lad is going to die at the age of twenty-eight?” he asked.

The unanimous response was “Yes.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes, he is going to die at that time, and nobody has the power to prevent it.”

My master turned to me and said, “These astrologers will all die before you do, and you will live for a long time because I will give you my own years.” Today none of them is alive. They all died before I was twenty-eight years old.

They said, “How is such a thing possible?”

My master replied, “Your prediction is wrong. There is something beyond astrology.” Then he said to me, “Don’t worry, but you will have to experience death face to face on that fateful day.”

During the intervening years I forgot all about what had been predicted. When I was twenty-eight, my master asked me to go to a mountain peak some 11,000 feet high about sixty miles from Rishikesh. There I performed a ritual Durga puja . I wore wooden sandals, a loincloth, and a shawl. I carried a pot of water with me, and nothing else. I went about freely in the mountains, chanting and reciting the hymns of the Divine Mother. The mountains were my home. I once climbed to a height of 20,000 feet, and I was confident that I could climb any mountain without special equipment.

One day I was singing as I walked all alone beside a steep cliff, feeling like the Lord himself in that solitude. I was on my way to the top of the mountain, where there was a small temple, to worship the Divine Mother. There were pine trees all around. Suddenly I slipped on the pine needles and began to roll down the mountain. I thought that my life was finished, but as I plummeted down about 500 feet I was caught by a small thorny bush. A sharp branch pierced me in the abdomen, and that held me. There was a precipitous drop below, and the bush started swinging with my weight. First I would see the mountains, and then the Ganga far below. I closed my eyes. When I opened them again, I saw blood flowing where the branch pierced my abdomen, but that was nothing compared to the stark imminence of death. I paid no attention to the pain because of the larger concern—the anticipation of death.

I repeated all the mantras I knew. I even repeated Christian and Buddhist mantras. I had been to many monasteries and had learned mantras from all faiths, but no mantra worked. I remembered many deities. I said, “O Bright Being such-and-such, please help me.” But no help was forthcoming. There was only one thing which I had not tested—my courage! When I started testing my courage I suddenly remembered, “I am not going to die, for there is no death for my soul. And death for this body is inevitable but unimportant. I am eternal. Why am I afraid? I have been identifying myself with my body. What a poor fool I have been!”

I am not going to die, for there is no death for my soul.

I remained suspended on that bush for about twenty minutes. Then I remembered something my master had told me. He said, “Do not form this habit, but whenever you really need me and remember me, I will be there, in one way or another.” I thought, “I have tested my courage; now I think I should also test my master.” (This is natural for a disciple. He constantly wants to test his master. He avoids facing his own weaknesses by looking for faults in his master.)

Because of the excessive bleeding I began to feel dizzy. Everything became hazy, and I began to lose consciousness. Then I heard some women on the path just above me. They had come to the mountains to collect grass and roots for their animals. One of them looked down and saw me. She cried, “Look, a dead man!”

I thought, “If they think that I am dead, they will leave me like this.” How could I communicate to them? My head was down and my feet were upward. The women were a few hundred feet away. I couldn’t speak, so I started waving my legs.

They said, “No, no, he’s not dead—his legs are still moving; he must still be alive.” They were brave women and came down, tied a rope around my waist, and lifted me up.

The stem was still inside me. I thought, “This is surely a time for courage.” I pressed my stomach in and I pulled the stem out of my abdomen. They took me to a small mountain path. They asked me if I could walk, and I said, “Yes.”

At first I didn’t realize the severity of my condition, for the injury caused by the stem was mostly internal. They thought that since I was a swami I could take care of myself without their help. They told me to follow the path until I came to a village; then they went on their way. I tried to walk, but after a few minutes I fainted and fell. I thought of my master and said to him, “My life is over. You brought me up and did everything for me. But now I am dying without realization.”

Suddenly my master appeared. I thought my mind was playing tricks on me. I said, “Are you really here? I thought you had left me!”

He said, “Why do you worry? Nothing is going to happen to you. Don’t you remember that this is the time and date predicted for your death? You need face death no more today. You are all right now.”

I gradually came to my senses. He brought some leaves, crushed them, and put them on the wound. He took me to a nearby cave and asked someone there to care for me. He said, “Even death can be prevented.” Then he went away. In two weeks the wound was healed, but the scar is still on my body.

In that experience I saw out how a genuine and selfless master helps his disciple even if he is far away. I realized that the relationship between master and disciple is the highest and purest of all. It is indescribable.

Source: Living with the Himalayan Masters by Swami Rama
Further Reading

Living with the Himalayan Masters

by Swami Rama

“I will tell you how I grew up and how I was trained, about the great sages with whom I lived and what they taught me, not through lectures and books but through experiences.” —Swami Rama

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