August 7, 1949, Sathyaraju had the spiritual experience of
enlightenment that completely transformed him. It was sudden and
came with almost no warning. It was the beginning of a twelve-year
process of intense spiritual practice, tapas.
Sathyaraju and some friends went to
the irrigation canal outside the village to cool off. It was the
heat of the afternoon in summer when temperatures usually exceed
forty degrees Centigrade (over a hundred Fahrenheit). When the boys
came out from the water, they found three palmyra fruit that had
fallen to the ground from a nearby grove of the tall, coconut-like
trees. The fruit were ripe and the fibrous flesh inside was full of
the sweet, sticky juice used to make jaggery sugar. As Sathyaraju
was the acknowledged leader, he divided the three fruit among the
Sathyaraju sat on the canal bank to
eat his fruit, near one of the dams that served as irrigation gates.
He peeled his piece of palmyra fruit and squeezed it to extract the
sweet juice. It was around half past three that afternoon when for
no accountable reason, his body began trembling all over. He was
wondering what had happened to him when suddenly he saw a light
emerge from the fruit in his hand. Almost at the same time, the
sound of Om started coming from the fruit. Mesmerized, he continued
to stare at the palmyra fruit. The divine light and sound engulfed
him in blissful waves and stopped the trembling of his body. His
mind became calm and peaceful.
As he continued to watch this strange
phenomenon, he saw a Shivalinga in his hand. It was black in color
and about a foot or a foot and a half in height. The Om sound
continued all the while and the Shivalinga continued to emit the
same dazzling light as the palmyra fruit fell from his hand. He was
watching this Shivalinga intently when it broke in half and fell
The Divine Guru
Standing before him was a man in the
attire of a jangama devara, a sadhu (ascetic) who worships
Lord Shiva, lives by begging, wears his hair matted, and smears his
body with ash. This man was well over seven feet tall and had a
strong, well built and beautifully proportioned body. He had dark
complexion and an extremely handsome and attractive appearance, with
large and beautiful eyes. His long matted hair was piled up on his
head in the manner of the ancient rishi sages. He had a necklace of
rudraksha beads with a small Shivalinga resting on his broad chest.
He wore a white dhoti, a long cloth wrapped around the waist,
again in the manner of the old rishis. A bright light came from him
that blotted out all other vision. All Sathyaraju could see was this
yogi surrounded by a bright radiance.
The yogi spoke to Sathyaraju in his
native language of Telugu, “Sit down.”
The boy asked, “Why should I sit
The yogi commanded, “Just be quiet and
“After I sit down, then what should I
“First sit, then I will let you know.”
Sathyaraju sat down. Then the yogi told him to sit in padma asana
— legs folded in lotus posture. The boy replied that he did not know
how to sit in padma asana. The yogi had to cross the boy’s
legs to make him sit in the correct position. Then the yogi told him
to close his eyes.
Sathyaraju asked, “What should I do
after I close my eyes?”
“First close your eyes, then I will
tell you.” Sathyaraju closed his eyes and the yogi used his middle
finger to touch the boy at the bhrikuti, the third eye which
is the point between the eyebrows. Then the yogi gently tapped him
on the head.
Immediately the boy lost outer
consciousness and went into deep samadhi. He became totally unaware
of his body and his surroundings. All he could see was the same
black Shivalinga that had appeared earlier in his hand, surrounded
by dazzling light. All he could hear was the sound of Om. His mind
was completely absorbed in this vision and sound to the exclusion of
While this spiritual drama was
unfolding, Sathyaraju’s playmates heard and saw nothing unusual.
They were eating their shares of the palmyra fruit or simply playing
around. It took a little while before they noticed that Sathyaraju
was sitting in a yoga posture, eyes closed. They thought he was play
acting at being a holy man, so they started to tease him. When they
got no response they got rougher.
Some tried to pull him out of his
lotus posture, while others hit him with sticks or their fists. But
Sathyaraju was in the bliss of enlightenment and totally oblivious
to what was going on around him. Still getting no response, the boys
smeared sticky palmyra juice and mud all over his body. When
Sathyaraju failed to react even to this, they picked him up, carried
him to the canal, and dunked him in the water. Sathyaraju remained
totally unconscious of his playmates’ ill treatment.
It became obvious to the boys that
this was no play-acting on Sathyaraju’s part. Whatever they tried,
they couldn’t get him to open his eyes. At the same time they could
not make out what had come over him. They thought he was dead and
they became scared that they might get blamed, so they washed off
the dirt they had smeared on his body, carried him out of the canal,
and left him sitting on the embankment. They ran back to the village
to tell people that something strange and inexplicable had happened.