I once knew a swami who was learned and highly intellectual. He did not believe in the existence of God. Whatever someone else believed he would try to undermine with cleverly formulated arguments. Many scholars avoided him, but he and I were good friends. I was attracted to him for his learning and logic. His entire mind and energy were focused on only one thing—how to argue. He was learned and obstinate.
He would say, “I don’t know why people don’t come to learn from me.”
And I would tell him, “You destroy their beliefs and their faith, so why should they come? They are afraid of you.”
He was a well-known man. He had written a book on the Shat-Darshana, the six systems of Indian philosophy, in which he attempted to refute all the classical philosophies. It’s a good book, a wonderful book for mental gymnastics. The Tibetan and Chinese scholars admired him as a logician and invited him to China. They apparently decided that if there was any learned man anywhere in India, it must be this man.
He did not believe in God, yet he was a monk. He used to say that he became a monk to refute and eliminate the order of monks. “They are all fake,” he would say. “They are a burden on society. I have found that there is nothing genuine in monasticism, and I am going to tell the world.” He vowed that if anyone could convince him that there was a God, he would become that person’s disciple.
“No matter what happens, even if I have to lay down my life, I will make this man aware of some deeper truths.”
Once he asked me, “Do you know my vow?”
I replied, “He would be the greatest fool who would take you as a disciple.”
He asked, “What do you mean?”
I said, “What can anyone do with your silly mind? You have sharpened your mind in one way, but you have not known any other dimension.”
He retorted, “You are the silly one. You talk of unknown dimensions. This is all rubbish, fantasy.”
I prayed to God and said, “No matter what happens, even if I have to lay down my life, I will make this man aware of some deeper truths.”
One day I asked, “Have you seen the Himalayas?”
He replied, “No, I never have.”
I told him, “In the summer it is pleasant to travel in the mountains. They are beautiful.” I was hoping that if he came with me I would find an opportunity to set him right.
He said, “That’s one thing I would love. With such beautiful mountains, why do we need God?”
I thought, “I will force him into a situation where he has to believe.” I planned to take him to one of the high mountains. With a small tent and some biscuits and dried fruits, we left for Kailash. It was in the month of September, when the snow starts. I firmly believed in God, and I prayed to the Lord to create a situation in which this swami would be helpless and then cry for God’s help. I was young and reckless, so I took him on an arduous path. I myself did not know where we were going, so we soon were lost.
I was born in the Himalayas, so I have developed a resistance to cold. A special posture and a breathing technique helped protect me from the cold. But the poor swami shivered painfully because he was unaccustomed to the mountain cold. Out of compassion and to show that I loved him, I gave him my blanket.
I took him up to a height of 14,000 feet. After 14,000 feet he complained, “I can’t breathe properly.”
I told him, “I don’t have any difficulty.”
He said, “You are a young man, so it doesn’t affect you.”
I said, “Don’t accept defeat.”
Every day he would teach me philosophy, and I would charm him by talking about the mountains. I would say, “What a beautiful thing to be so close to nature.”
After we had been walking in the mountains for four days, it started snowing. We camped at a height of 15,000 feet. We had only a small, four-by-five-foot tent. When it had snowed up to two feet, I said, “Do you know that it will snow seven to eight feet and our tent will be buried and we will be buried inside the tent?”
“Don’t say that!” he exclaimed.
I said, “It is true.”
“Can we go back?”
“There is no way, Swamiji.”
“What shall we do?”
I replied, “I will pray to God.”
He said, “I believe in facts; I do not believe in the silly things you are speaking of.”
I said, “By the grace of my God, the snow will stop. If you want to use your philosophy and intelligence to stop it, you are welcome. Just try.”
He said, “How will I know if your prayers work? Suppose you pray and the snow stops. Even then I won’t believe in God, because the snow might have stopped anyway.”
The snow was soon four feet deep on all sides of the small tent, and he started to feel suffocated. I would make a hole in the snow so we could breathe, but it would soon close again. I knew that something was sure to happen. Either we would die, or he would believe in God.
Finally it happened. He said, “Do something! Your master is a great man, and I have insulted him many times. Perhaps that is why I am now being put through this torture and danger.” He started to become frightened.
I said, “If you pray to God, in five minutes the snow will stop and there will be sunshine. If you don’t, you will die and you will kill me too. God has whispered this to me.”
He asked, “Really? How are you hearing this?”
I said, “He is speaking to me.”
He began to believe me. He said, “If there is no sunshine, I am going to kill you, because I am breaking my vow. I have only one basic unconditional vow, and that is not to believe in God.”
Under pressure of the fear of death, such a man reverses himself and quickly acquires great devotion. He started praying with tears in his eyes. And I thought, “If the snow doesn’t stop in five minutes, then he will harden his heart even more.” So I also prayed.
By the grace of God, in exactly five minutes the snow stopped and the sun started to shine. He was surprised—and so was I!
He asked, “Will we live?”
I said, “Yes, God wants us to live.”
He said, “Now I realize that there really must be something which I did not understand.”
Under pressure of the fear of death, such a man reverses himself and quickly acquires great devotion.
After that, he vowed to live in silence for the rest of his life. He lived 21 more years and never spoke to anyone. And if anyone would talk about God, he would weep tears of ecstasy. After that, he wrote more books, including a commentary on the Mahimna Stotra (Hymns of the Lord).
When we have gone through intellectual gymnastics, we find something beyond the intellect. A stage comes when intellect cannot guide us, and only intuition can show us the way. Intellect examines, calculates, decides, accepts, and rejects all that is happening within the spheres of the mind, but intuition is an uninterrupted flow which dawns spontaneously from its source, deep down within. It dawns only when the mind attains a state of tranquility, equilibrium, and equanimity. That pure intuition expands the human consciousness in a way that one starts seeing things clearly. Life as a whole is understood, and ignorance is dispelled. After a series of experiences, direct experience becomes a guide, and one starts receiving intuition spontaneously.
The great sage Tulsidasa said, “Without being God-fearing, love for God is not possible, and without love for God, realization is impossible.” The fear of God makes one aware of God consciousness, but fear of the world creates fear and thus danger. Intellectual gymnastics is a mere exercise which creates fears, but love of God liberates one from all fears.
Source: Living with the Himalayan Masters by Swami Rama