(here's another miracle story I've been meaning to post for some time now. it's also an excerpt from an earlier letter, from march 2001.)
THE BIRTH OF AN ATMA LINGAM
... so, we went back to Penukonda, to the ashram, for a little more than a week or so, and arrived just in time for Maha Shiva Rathri, the festival of the nearing new moon day in February. Shiva Rathri is the anniversary of the birthday of Shiva, the god in the Hindu pantheon who is responsible for the pivotal function of destruction/rebirth in the cycle of life and death and life.
it's also, apparently, the anniversary of his wedding -- even though Shiva is supposed to be the great ascete, he has a beautiful wife who is usually called Parvati, but also shows up as the archetypal Shakti, the fierce Durga, or the even fiercer (and grotesque-looking) Kali.
the reason I'm taking the time to explain this is to give you some context for the miracle that I witnessed on Shiva Rathri in Penukonda. in Hindu India, there is a tradition of power objects -- like talismans, objects, mythical relics, etc., like the stuff we all grew up reading about in fairy tales and fantasy literature like Tolkein's ring, etc., -- only in India, at the deep levels, this is more than tradition or myth; there really ARE power objects & they are routinely used for mystical and miraculous purposes. in addition to the man-made stuff, like rings and other forms of jewelry, or statues, etc., there are naturally occuring objects as well.
one such is the Shiva Lingam. these are oval-shaped rocks, found in or near river beds, usually, which have been highly polished by natural elements so as to be perfectly smooth -- they come in sizes ranging from the proportions of my little finger to almost fire-hydrant size. 'lingam,' the word itself, implies penis, or 'wand of light' -- these rocks are thought to be imbued with the life-force energy of Shiva, much the same way that the male sex organ carries the life-making material ...
many of the ancient Shiva temples have enormous (like the top of a fire-hydrant size) lingams that form the centerpiece of the inner sanctum of the temple -- in the temples like the one at Sri Sailem, or Hampi, the Shiva lingams are more than a thousand years old. and boy-oh-boy are they powerful.
the priests at the Shiva temple in Hampi let us partway into the inner sanctum to meditate, because they know our teacher Kaleshwar, and so we're able to sit about ten feet away rather than the usual twenty or so from the lingam.... the closer you get, the stronger the feeling of heaviness gets, until you can't hardly stand up.
anyway, that's like the 101 about Shiva lingams.
what I saw -- well, this will sound totally off-the-wall but it's true....
what happens in the lives of certain saints, and one of the hallmarks of an avatar (a self-aware divine soul in a human body, like a Jesus or Buddha, or Krishna, etc.) is that they periodically form lingams in their bodies, in their stomachs, and then 'deliver' these lingams, like birthing them, but through the esophagus and mouth, on auspicious days (like Maha Shiva Rathri).
I'd heard for the last year and a half that Kaleshwar does this, every Maha Shiva Rathri, and I kept hoping for the opportunity to be present when he delivers one of these lingams.
(which they call an atma lingam, by the way, atma being the word for soul in Sanskrit -- atma lingam because it comes from the physical body of a saint, implying that a piece of his soul is in the lingam, AND because these lingams physically GROW, every full moon. I know someone who's had one for more than a year, it's nearly two inches longer than it was, originally.)
I've talked with many many people who've been there and experienced it; they described it as a fairly gory experience, with a lot of blood and coughing and retching, that it's really painful for Kaleshwar to go through this process, that often it takes a half-hour or more and he's yelping in pain sometimes.... yet he does it, every year.
a few years ago, he had a huge one forming in his stomach, so huge that the American M.D. who is a close student of his was seriously concerned about the safety of the lingam coming up through the esophagus -- what if it got stuck ? -- so under pressure, Kaleshwar went to an emergency room and had it x-rayed, and sure enough, the lingam was way too big for safety. it possibly would have killed or at least seriously injured him.
so, based on the visual confirmation (I think the M.D. could also feel it, palpating Kaleshwar's body), Kaleshwar did a nice little trick and split the lingam in two, internally, and then 'delivered' them both -- one at a time.
I'm trying to imagine my friends and family reading this description, above, and relating to it about as much as one can relate to a sci-fi story they've just heard about Mars. (actually, we're acculterated more easily to accept a fictional account of another planet than to even BEGIN to absorb what's possible on our own home turf.... but never mind.)
in India, they know that atma lingams happen, and indeed I doubt that the hospital staff who x-rayed his stomach were fazed at all, either by the request or the results. I'm trying to picture the same situation in the U.S. -- your local saint comes in to the emergency room to make sure that the atma lingam he's going to spit up in a few weeks isn't life-threatening....... whoo, boy.
ANYWAY, as it turned out, this year, Kaleshwar said originally that he was only going to do a public atma lingam experience for a group of Japanese students, and that the Westerners would feel the energy but we were to stay in the town of Hampi (4 hours from the ashram) and miss the whole thing physically.
I was kind of disappointed, I was very excited to be here in India for Maha Shiva Rathri and was really looking forward to this experience...
but at the last minute we were all invited BACK to the ashram, for Shiva Rathri, and at 11:30 pm or so, actually more like around midnight, we were all gathered in the Jesus church that Kaleshwara's built on his ashram, a sublimely beautiful place.
we heard him downstairs, with the Japanese group... -- and after a while he came upstairs, looking pretty chipper and highly supernatural, like super-sharply defined but also like a multiple image, almost like a hologram, and he had us chant some mantras, and then he walked right over to where we were sitting, stood in front of Jonathan for a moment, then Kaleshwara reached out a hand, and pulled Jonathan up from the floor.
as Jonathan struggled to stand up -- it's a wonder he made it to his feet at all, the energy in the room was already getting -- blurry -- he put a hand on my shoulder to steady himself.
an electric shock went down my whole body, from that contact. Kaleshwara was kind of leaning on Jonathan, and Jonathan was in turn kinda leaning on me, and my feeling was that whatever energy Kaleshwara was running, whatever was pulsing through him in that high high time, just before producing the atma lingam, some of it poured into me from Jonathan's hand.
I nearly fell over.
as I was recovering from that download of shakti (energy), Kaleshwara led Jonathan to a place slightly behind the whole group of students sitting there, leaned on him, and started coughing.
I think it took all of about five minutes or so.
it's hard to say, since time tends to stand perfectly still in miracle moments like this. the energy in the room was so thick and fierce that the walls were practically shimmering, reminiscient of certain hallucenogenic voyages I made as a teenager, and the sheer beauty of the energy was enough to make you cry -- I certainly had tears in my eyes -- it was so pure and filled with grace, like dripping grace until every cell in your body is permeated with it. until you're soggy with it. incredible.
I DO remember a few of the more experienced students coming over to help catch the lingam as it came out (if atma lingams hit the ground, they disappear -- some saints birth them in the forests and just leave them there on the ground, unseen but radiating blessings).
I registered it as being smaller than I thought it would be.
they had to clean it off, it was bloody, and I think as usual it was soft upon arrival, but hardened rapidly -- this one into a crystal oval (egg-shaped) rock. (not the ones in the photo above, which were from a different year.)
Kaleshwara gave it to the American M.D. who has been so close a student with him for several years now, and we were all allowed to hold it and press it to our foreheads, to the 3rd Eye, for a few seconds, to get the blessing, to receive something of the energy of its creation.
all in all, an astonishing event -- indescribable in some ways, I'm doing my best to recount what I can.
within a few minutes, Kaleshwar was back to his usual buoyant self and left us to our experiences with the crystal lingam while he took care of some other business with some other students.
so why does he do this?
I'm not 100% sure, as I don't live in the confidence of a living saint, but my best guess based on things he's said about miracles, lingams, and power objects, is that it's a way to put highly powerful healing tools in the hands of his students.
so that new power objects, emitted from Kaleshwara's physical body but bearing all the power of his meditation energy and his soul energy, can be put into circulation in the world and used for holy, and healing, purposes.
only a handful of his students have received atma lingams, & I think also that the students who receive them are going to be the next generation of living saints in the world.
until they are fully-fledged saints with supernatural abilities (like producing their own atma lingams), they can use and rely upon power objects like these to help with their work in the world.
I also think that for the rest of us who're simply lucky enough to be present at such an occasion, the energetic blast and blessing that accompanies the birth of an atma lingam is one of overwhelming grace.
it's an enormous, powerful boost to all of us, our souls, and our work.
and, by extension, it is a blessing to this whole planet.