A Search for Destiny

"Quickly! Quickly!" the Indian man said in a tone of desperation to Roman West. "No one ever knows how long Narayanji stays in one place. I just saw him yesterday, but he may already be gone or getting ready to leave. And where he may go is anybody's guess," the man said as he shrugged his shoulders.

Roman West had been traveling in India for a few months. He was now in the north Indian town of Rishikesh. At the moment, Roman's interest was in one particular man, Kumar, who was practically dragging him through the small crowds and down the narrow lanes, pulling him by the arm. The man was a light-complected local Indian, of slim build, about five feet tall, and wore loose white pants and shirt. Roman guessed he was about 50 years old, but he was very agile and energetic for his age.

"But why must we see this man?" Roman questioned Kumar. "Why do you place so much importance on him? Surely there must be many Brahmins in this town who can read palms."

Suddenly, Kumar stopped in the street and turned and looked Roman right in the eye. "Why don't you understand that it is not a matter of simply reading palms? That is elementary. Anybody can do it. I just did it, didn't I? I just read your palm and saw something that I am not sure I should tell you about, regarding your destiny. But this man, Narayanji, he can look directly into you and see who you are and where you are going in life. He can tell you many things. And he can tell me if what I see is correct."

Kumar began pulling Roman's arm again with the same urgency as before. Roman was a somewhat handsome man from a small town in the Midwestern part of the United States. He was in his mid-thirties and wore blue jeans, a light-colored T-shirt, canvas jogging shoes, and looked typically Western. He had thick but short brown hair combed to the side, and though his nearly six-foot height made him look much larger than Kumar, he looked as though he was having trouble keeping up. They soon made their way over to the narrow Hanumanjhula suspension bridge that crosses the Ganges River and connects the west bank of Rishikesh to Swargashrama on the east bank. The sun was getting low over the horizon, and the air was cool and breezy as it came down from the surrounding hills. The streets were crowded with all kinds of people strolling about. People from all walks of life. Some were wandering mendicants, monks, sadhus, and others were Western and Indian tourists. Some were shopping, some were sightseeing, others were visiting the local temples and ashramas. Others were looking for a place to have their evening meal. So as Roman and Kumar were crossing the bridge, the crowds forced them to go slow, much to the consternation of Kumar. They gradually made their way passed the beggars that often stand on each side of the suspension bridge, and on by the children who were throwing bits of food down to the schools of large fish seen in the clear river. Then they were on the other side and walking up the small incline and down the street along the sacred Ganges River.

Rishikesh is a town 24 kilometers north of Haridwar. Roman had arrived there a week after having gone to the Kumba Mela festival at Har Ki Pauri in Haridwar in the early part of 1986. The Kumba Mela is a month long festival where millions of saints, sages, and pilgrims come from all over India and the Himalayas to attend. It is indeed the largest religious festival in the world. It is alternatively held every three years at Ujjain, Nasik, and Allahabad. At a certain auspicious time, calculated astrologically, everyone bathes in the Ganges River for spiritual purification and to attain liberation from the material world after death. However, it is also accepted that anytime is beneficial. Afterwards, everyone returns to their homes or continues their way to various pilgrimage sites.

When Roman first arrived in Rishikesh, after spending sometime looking around the town and its many shops in the business section, he had found himself at Kumar's bookstore not far from the taxi and motor ricksha stand near the Ganges. He was merely looking at a few books on yoga. When Kumar had noticed him, they immediately started talking. Roman had initially answered Kumar's questions about where he had been, what he liked or did not like about India, what he thought of the people, and so on. All the typical questions inquisitive Indians ask when they see foreigners traveling in their country. Somehow Roman began revealing what he was hoping to find in India. He had said that he was hoping to find someone who could help him understand spiritual truths and the higher reasons for life. He mentioned that he had always wanted to come to India but was never able to until now. It seemed that life was losing meaning for him. He had left a successful but stagnating career in real estate, and was especially prompted to travel to India after divorcing his unfaithful wife. He was entering a time when he had little direction and few responsibilities. So it was the opportunity he needed to travel and find himself, and be open to whatever life had to offer.

Soon after that, Kumar was looking at Roman's palm, and a few minutes later Kumar was locking up his shop and pulling Roman along in hopes of meeting Narayanji. Because of this, Roman felt a new adventure was beginning for him.

Roman and Kumar quickly headed down the narrow street. Roman could see families buying vegetables at the open market for an evening meal. Along the roadside, there were also wandering sadhus who were gathering where they would be taking rest that night. Some had taken whatever they had collected from their begging, and had bought a few vegetables and were making their evening meal by cooking with their small steel containers over an open fire. One would make the fire, another would peel the potato, another would cook the rice, and then eat. Very simple. This is how they lived, simply depending on God for whatever may come. To Roman, it was all interesting, enlightening, and exotic at the same time. After going past some more small shops that sold jewelry, clothes, or books, along with a few restaurants, a couple of temples and ashramas, a few stray cows, as well as vendors selling such items as postcards, roasted peanuts, and popcorn from carts along the sidewalks, Kumar turned to Roman and said, "It's not far now. We are almost there."

Kumar soon turned to enter the Parmarth temple and ashrama complex. It had beautiful courtyards filled with flowers, fountains, stone benches, and many dioramas depicting stories of Lord Krishna and pastimes from the Vedic scriptures. In the middle were small temple buildings that housed various Deities, such as Radha-Krishna, Shiva-Parvati, Ganesh, and the universal form of the Supreme Being. The smell of incense and flowers was in the air. Roman thought the whole atmosphere was very soothing. This was, indeed, the holy aspect of India.

There were many visiting pilgrims and Indian travelers walking about in the courtyards. Others were walking in and out of their small rooms or returning from a busy day of seeing Rishikesh. Small crowds were gathered around the temple buildings paying respects to the Deities while other people were sitting in the nearby lecture hall to hear a local sage who was giving an evening discourse in Hindi.

As Roman and Kumar walked past an altar with Deities of Sita-Ram, Kumar paused long enough to bring his folded hands up to his forehead, bow slightly, and then rush past. Turning another corner and walking by a fountain surrounded by flowers, they made their way to the end of a building that contained many guest rooms. They arrived at one of the green doors that, like all the others in the hotel-like structure, badly needed painting.

"He told me yesterday he was staying here, but I do not know if he is still here," Kumar said as he waved his hands for emphasis. Straightening his clothes and catching his breath, he knocked on the door in a respectful manner. Roman could hear an old man cough from inside. "Come in."

Kumar opened the door and Roman could see a very simple room that was lit only by one dim bulb on the ceiling and the light that came through the open door and a window. A spry old man with a healthy glow about him, dressed in saffron cloth, with a three-lined Shaivite tilok marking his forehead, got up from the wooden cot he had been sitting on and greeted them.

"Ah, my friend," Narayanji said with enthusiasm. "I knew you would come to see me," he smiled, "and you have brought a visitor. How nice! Here, please sit," he pointed to some rough mats on the floor, "and have some water." Narayanji placed two steel cups on the little table next to the mats and bent over to pour some clear water from a plastic pitcher into each cup. He then stood up straight and said, "No place that I have been to has water as good as we can get here." He raised his eyebrows and looked straight at Roman, "Right from the river itself," he said as he pointed in the direction of the Ganges.

Roman, still standing, took a cup and questioningly looked at the water and asked, "You mean this is straight from the Ganges River?"

"Absolutely," Narayanji confidently replied.

Kumar lifted his cup and took several big gulps, then looked over at Roman who was hesitating and leaned toward him and said in a low voice, "You should never refuse what has been offered to you by a Brahmin." Roman then took the cup and slowly lifted it and sipped the water. Not bad. Another swallow. Actually, it was quite good.

"People bathe in the Ganga to be cleansed," Narayanji explained, "not only of dirt but also of their sins. And people drink it for good health. Of course, here the water is not so polluted like you find at places farther downstream, like in Calcutta. Here it is right out of the Himalayan mountains, so it is fresh and pure. But, of course, it is always pure, even if there is some dirt in it. You have already bathed in the Ganga I suppose?" he asked Roman.

"Yes, at Haridwar during the Kumba Mela."

"Oh, that is the best time. That is very good," Narayanji said shaking his head from side to side in the typical Indian gesture showing approval. "I was there, too. So many people go to the Kumba Mela."

"Too many," Roman interjected.

"Oh, you do not like so many people in one place?" He laughed heartily.

"Not when there are several hundred thousand people all trying to be in the same spot at the same time."

"Westerners generally do not like such big crowds. Always pushing against one another. And no privacy. You like to have a little space for yourself, do you not?" Narayanji smilingly questioned.

Roman smiled at the knowing of the old man, "Yes. At least I do."

Kumar and Roman stepped over to the mats and sat while Narayanji seated himself back on the cot.

"Narayanji, there is one small favor I wish of you," Kumar humbly requested. "Could you please look at my friend's palm? I was just now looking at it and I think I have seen something of interest."

"Oh?" Narayanji pointed to Roman's hand and then pointed to the small table between them. Roman placed his right hand, palm up, on the table. "Both of them," Narayanji ordered. Roman put his other hand on the table as well.

Narayanji squinted his eyes as he began studying each palm. He glanced up at the one bare and dim light bulb on the ceiling of the room, "At times the moon is brighter than the lights they put in these rooms."

"We can go outside. The sun has not set yet," Kumar suggested. But Narayanji said nothing more. He simply kept studying Roman's palms, bending them this way and that with his hands in order to get a better look.

Finally, after several minutes, he raised his head and steadily looked into Roman's eyes. "Why have you come to India?" he asked. "Because you are looking for your destiny," Narayanji answered without giving Roman time to speak. "So many people come to India. All looking for something. Some people cannot tolerate or understand India at all and leave without ever coming close to understanding what this culture is and what it has to offer. Others are simply tourists and look at this country like any other they happen to visit, buying trinkets and taking photographs. But you have come here with a purpose. You are looking for a means to change yourself, to increase your understanding of life and what you are meant to do in this existence. You know you are in this world for some reason, but you have not quite grasped what is that reason. But I can assure you," He said as he pointed to something in Roman's palm, "before you go back to the West, you will have a firm understanding of these things. In fact, by the time you leave India, you will not believe all that will have happened to you. You will not be the same person. You will be on a completely different level of your development. I can guarantee that while you are here, God is going to reveal something so powerful to you that if I told you about it now you would not believe me."

"That is just what I had thought," Kumar said excitedly, smiling at Narayanji. "Do you think he has something to do with the prophecy related to Suhridam Goswami? I do not know, but I personally think that the time for something to happen is drawing near."

Wait a minute, Roman thought, startled by this new turn in the conversation. What prophecy are they talking about? Kumar hadn't said anything about a prophecy before. Maybe this was why he so eagerly wanted to see Narayanji. Suddenly, Roman felt like a patient being looked over by a couple of doctors who knew more than he did and weren't telling him what it was that was wrong with him.

"I cannot say for sure," Narayanji answered. "Everyone has free will. Even if something is supposed to happen to someone, they can change it to some degree if they will to do so strongly enough. But I would say there is a chance. It depends on two things. For one, of course, if he is the person that is destined so, and the other is if he decides to seek out his destiny in such a way. If he goes back to the West tomorrow, then, of course, nothing will happen. But it will be some time before he goes back to the West. Of that, I am sure."

"Wait a minute." Roman finally spoke up. "I don't understand what's going on here. What prophecy are you talking about?"

"The only way to find out is to advise him to go up in the hills to see Suhridam Goswami," Narayanji explained to Kumar without taking notice that Roman had said anything. "But he has got some extraordinary qualities," he said as he pointed to Roman's palms. "However, these qualities and abilities have not yet been developed." Then, looking at Roman, Narayanji asked him, "What are you really looking for in life? What is it that matters most to you?"

Now Roman was put on the spot. Sometimes he had thought about this in his most introspective moments. Yet, he never had to explain himself before. Should he simply try to give some easy answer, or should he really try to put things in perspective for these two people he had never met before? He gathered his thoughts as best he could and began to explain how he really felt.

"I just want to find out what I'm supposed to do here in this world. I feel that there must be a reason for it, not only for this existence but also for this struggle to stay alive, to earn a living, and try to be happy by some means. I feel that there must be something special I'm meant to accomplish in life, some purpose behind it all, for me being here. Otherwise, what is the point? What is the point of finding a career, to work hard, to grow old and then die? Sure, a person can work his whole life and make lots of money, if he's lucky, or raise a family and all that, but for what? What happens after that, and for what reason? I've done so many things in this life, yet I still don't feel fulfilled.

"I used to think I knew exactly what I wanted to do. I was a musician, and a good one. I wrote songs and was popular playing guitar in a band. And then after so many years things change. Now I look at myself and begin wondering what I'm doing with my life or whether I still want what I thought I wanted a long time ago. Maybe I'm just going through a mid-life crisis." At this, both Narayanji and Kumar started laughing. "But I'm honestly still searching for answers about a lot of things. And before I get old, I want to try to understand those things."

Narayanji looked at Roman with a kind and understanding smile. "My friend, as I see it, with your destiny, as shown in your palms, you have every opportunity to find that for which you are looking. And your values will change."

"Yes," Roman responded. "My visit to India has definitely made me re-think my position in this world and who I am."

Narayanji gazed out the little window for a moment. "But," now looking back at Roman, "are you ready to find your destiny? Do not think that it will be easy. Everyone has certain tests in life and how you do depends on you. The real content of your character and mind will surface. Are you ready for the challenge?"

"Why not?" Roman replied, shrugging his shoulders. "What do I have to lose? That's what I came to India for. Years ago in the sixties a lot of my friends had visited India and returned with many interesting stories. They were certainly enriched by their experiences. I had also wanted to come here but couldn't because of other obligations. Now that I'm free, I figured it was the right time to come here and see a different way of looking at life. But I haven't figured out what I'm supposed to do here or how to get started."

"Kumar can tell you," Narayanji said as he stood up. "And I can assure you that I am not talking about hippies coming to India looking for a way to reach a new high or for some enriching experiences. This is far more serious than that. You will never be the same." Narayanji looked into Roman's eyes with silence. For the first time Roman saw the characteristics of Narayanji's face. The depth and steadiness of his eyes, his calm that seemed to show a complete fearlessness, and the wisdom that must exist behind his graying beard and moustache. Roman looked back at Narayanji and started to feel nervous and inadequate in contrast to what must be perceived as his own lack of spiritual experience, and to the mental stillness of Narayanji. Roman could only imagine what levels of realization this man must have already reached in this life.

"As for me," Narayanji said, breaking the silence, "It is time to go to the evening Gangapuja. I'm leaving for Haridwar tomorrow morning to stay for a few days, and then I'll go south, so I want to pay my respects one more time to the river I love." Narayanji walked toward the door as Roman and Kumar also got up to leave.

"Thank you so much, Narayanji," Kumar said excitedly as he bowed slightly with folded hands raised to his forehead. "When will you be back in Rishikesh?"

"I do not know," Narayanji smiled, "but when I am back you can be sure I will stop by your little bookstore," he said laughingly.

They all walked outside and began making their way through the temple courtyard and back down the street along the Ganges. By now the sun had set and though it was still twilight, it was quickly getting dark.

"Narayanji, who is this Suhridam Goswami that you mentioned?" Roman asked as they made their way through a small crowd of people in front of a row of shops.

"He is a saint and a personal friend. He is one of those great personalities that the world so often never knows. I have known him for many years, but I have not seen him for some time now. He rarely comes down from the hills these days. Yet, whenever I think of him, I remember him with fondness."

"How do I meet him if I am supposed to see him?" asked Roman.

"That may not be so easy. First of all you have to decide whether you actually want to see him. Then Kumar can tell you how to find him. After that it is not so much up to you, but up to Suhridam himself. Many people have tried to find him, and many people were unsuccessful. Some say that he remains invisible to those he does not wish to see."

Roman wondered about what Narayanji was saying as the three of them continued down the narrow street amidst the small shops and restaurants to see the Gangapuja near the suspension bridge. Then as they turned the last corner and walked down the incline toward the river, they saw a little crowd in front of a very small temple of Gangadevi, the personality of the Ganges river. Narayanji went into the crowd to get closer to the little temple while Roman and Kumar waited and watched off to the side. The street lights had come on, supplying a little more light to the growing darkness and making it possible to recognize the people who still walked the streets. The arati ceremony of the Gangapuja was in progress as the priest waved a ghee lamp with dozens of flames toward the Ganges River in worship. People were chanting or singing songs for the Gangapuja as the ceremony went on. Then, about twenty minutes after the ceremony had begun, the priest threw palmfuls of Ganges water over the crowd as everyone called out in jubilation, thus ending the evening worship of the Ganges.

As the crowd dispersed, Narayanji came toward Roman and Kumar. He raised his folded hands to his chest, smiled, and said, "Hari Om," bowing his head slightly. Kumar and Roman did the same. Then Narayanji was off down the street in the typically detached manner of one who is in the renounced mode of life, making his way back to his little room, no doubt to begin the few preparations needed to be off on his travels the next day. Kumar and Roman turned the other way to go up the small hill by the suspension bridge and then on down the sandy path past what looked like small two-story apartment buildings.

"Just follow me," Kumar told Roman, as they walked down the stone path, occasionally passing other pilgrims and sadhus along the way. "We can leave your things at my bookshop where they are. It is locked up, so everything will be safe until morning. Now you come to my house and you will be very happy. My wife can make you something to eat. You like tea? I will make you special tea." Kumar seemed very buoyant that he was bringing a foreigner as a guest to his house.

"Yes," Roman replied out of respect. "I would like a little tea. How far away is your house?"

"It is just a little walk and very nice. It is on the hillside overlooking the banks of the Ganga. You can go down the hill just behind my house and you are immediately on the beach of the Ganga. There it is very nice for evening meditation or for morning bath. Sometimes I sleep right on the sand next to the river. Years ago, on occasion, I have seen wild animals come to the river to drink, like tigers. Of course, I do not see much of that anymore."

"You mean tigers come out of the woods here and drink?" Roman asked in surprise.

"Yes. They would come out and drink and then go back into the hills. And sometimes there are cobras," Kumar said.

"I didn't know there was so much wildlife around these parts."

"Well," Kumar said, as he waved his hand at the big, beautiful hills that surrounded Rishikesh on three sides, "these are the foothills of the Himalayas. Don't forget, these mountains and woods are still the home of many creatures. There is much life in these hills, though they are not so plentiful as before. And many sages and hermits live in these hills, too."

Then Kumar, holding up his hand, directed Roman to his left, saying, "Here we are. This is my house." They walked down a short walkway to the door of a very simple stone house that was nestled in the middle of a group of trees. Roman thought it was nice, but the way Kumar had talked of it, he had imagined something bigger and more opulent. It was more like a small cottage. But in India most everything seemed to be small.

Kumar led Roman through the front door into a small front room, and motioned for him to sit down on one of the two wooden chairs. Then he went into the next room, no doubt the kitchen because of the aroma of something cooking coming from there. The room in which Roman was sitting was lit by a single light bulb in the center of the ceiling. At one side was a small altar consisting of pictures of Lord Shiva, Goddess Durga, Ganesh, Radha-Krishna, and Sita-Ram. Across from him was a bookshelf filled with books on philosophy and Vedic scriptures. A conversation could be heard between Kumar and a woman. Then Roman saw Kumar bring a small but attractive lady from the room. She was wearing a colorful yet rather worn yellow sari. A few gold bangles hung from her wrists. She also wore small gold earrings and a little gold nose ring on the left side of her nose. She looked to be a little younger than Kumar.

"This is my wife," Kumar happily told Roman. It was obvious he was somewhat proud of her.

"Very pleased to meet you," Roman politely said.

The woman nodded her head and smiled bashfully, said nothing, and then returned to the kitchen.

Kumar brought out some steel cups and placed them on the little table between the two chairs. Across from the chairs on the other side of the room was a worn couch. Kumar sat in the other chair near Roman while Kumar's wife brought out a pot and poured some tea in her husband's cup and then into Roman's cup and went back to the kitchen.

Kumar took a sip from his cup and nodded for Roman to do the same. "You like this tea?" Kumar asked, after Roman had tasted it.

"Yes. Quite nice," Roman said of the hot, sweet drink.

"It is tea made with basil leaves, cinnamon bark, milk and sugar. That is all," Kumar explained, smiling.

Then Kumar's wife brought out two metal plates of food along with spoons. Each plate had two chapatis and a vegetable preparation in a sauce. Kumar immediately began to eat. Roman, however, had learned that in India, better to take a little bite of each preparation first to make sure that it was not too spicy for him to handle. He had already experienced occasional surprises by the fiery spices used in the East. This time, however, he was pleasantly surprised to find that everything was quite palatable.

They ate in silence and when Roman finished his plate Kumar's wife came in to offer more warm chapatis. Kumar took two more, scooping up his vegetables with them as he ate with his fingers. Roman said he was fine with what he had, but Kumar encouraged him with his waving hand saying, "You must take more. Take two more chapatis at least." So, Roman obligingly took two more to satisfy his host.

When they were done eating, they put the plates on the table and Kumar motioned Roman to follow him into a little room where there was a half-empty barrel of water sitting on a bench. Kumar opened a small spout at the bottom of it and washed his hands and mouth. Roman did the same after which they went out the back door and into the night air.

"Let us go this way, down to the river," Kumar said as he led Roman through the trees and down the hillside to the sandy beach that was along the Ganges. It had gotten dark, but it was not difficult to see since the moon had risen over the hills and was providing ample light. Roman could not quite figure out why the moon in India seemed so much brighter than in the West. The surrounding landscape was clearly visible simply by the moonlight. They walked over the sand in silence to some tall rocks next to the river. They climbed up on top of them and sat down, which provided a good view overlooking the ancient and sacred Ganges winding its way through the hills and past the town of Rishikesh, that was lit by its street lights. Roman could see others not far off sitting in meditation on other rocks or walking on the beach. A ways downstream, Roman could also see and faintly hear a local teacher giving a talk to a gathering of people. He was sitting under a small light, and someone was holding a megaphone which he spoke through.

There was such a feeling to this place. Roman thought that it was like being at a resort where people from all over the world come to visit, yet there was hardly anything of a nightlife except for an evening program in a temple or ashrama, or whatever you found to meditate on along the Ganges. Here, most commercial enterprises began closing soon after dark except for the bazaars in the heart of the town and the restaurants. The stores would stay open until about nine at night while people shopped for whatever they needed. Then things would start getting quiet.

Roman looked at the night sky. The stars were so clear, the air so clean. This is it, Roman thought to himself. This is India, Rishikesh, and this is how people live. This isn't any picture or movie to stare at. But these are the foothills of the Himalayas with all kinds of sages and wandering sadhus, a few of which could be seen in the moonlight meditating next to the sacred Ganges River. What could they see in their meditation?

Roman sat there in awe of the beauty of the hills, the moon, this great river flowing by, the cool breeze of fresh air blowing in his face coming down out of the hills, the occasional smell of burnt wood from a nearby cooking fire, or incense, and the sounds of temple bells in the distance. Roman felt like he was on the verge of some great awakening or enlightenment, but he didn't know what it was. What had just happened with Kumar and Narayanji was such a turn of events.

Roman had the feeling that to go up into the hills would bring about a complete change in his life, a change of consciousness. Should he do it? He felt a little apprehensive, like looking into the unknown. Could he surrender to being open to whatever might happen, to enter the point of never turning back, that he would never be the same? Or should he not go up, but simply continue on the way he always has, to get what he has always gotten? That's certainly not much of a challenge. In that case, he would merely continue wandering through life with the same questions, lack of fulfillment, and habitual mental thought patterns because he never had the courage to step beyond it. He knew he was experiencing a fear of really getting in touch with his spirit, his real identity, to see what he actually was beyond everything he had previously understood of himself and the world. This was a little frightening, not knowing what may happen in the hills, but what might also happen within himself. Yet, what was the big deal? It could also make all the difference, it could be all that he has been looking for. Roman remembered what someone had once told him, that to not be a little afraid is to not be making any progress.

Roman suddenly had the feeling that everything he had ever been through, everything he had become, everything he had learned and experienced was balanced on the top of the rock where he was sitting. He could go forward or backward. He could go this way or that. It all depended on the choice he made. Everything he'd been through in life was meant for a purpose, and whatever it was had brought him here, to this very spot and point in time. His whole life, all of his education, his career, his family experience, his successes and failures, it had all brought him to this particular point. And now, with the decisions he was about to make, it would all bring him to what he was meant to be. That's what life was, a series of events just to take a person to a certain level of understanding, a particular stage of development, only to prepare him for a higher level of realization and a more advanced and mature vision of life, of humanity, of this whole creation, and of him or herself. It was as if life simply contains a series of events that are like lessons from which we learn and develop. What a person did with that all depended on his or her outlook and consciousness, and where he or she hoped to go in life. But the point to remember was that Roman's destiny was before him, and how he found it depended on his decision regarding whether or not he went up into the hills to find Suhridam, or forget about it and just go on with his travels.

In the midst of all this thought, Roman remembered a song he had written years ago that seemed to fit the situation. Sitting there, he thought of the words.

I'm looking 'round this ole place and what do I find

Memories of long ago that gave me peace of mind.

And when I think of all I've seen during those special times

I don't know if I'm far ahead or if I'm still behind,

So let it pass, let it pass away

All those memories of yesterday.

And when I drive down those roads that I've known so well before

It's like stepping back into a dream, or through some silent door.

And feeling the love I have had for all of my friends

I don't know as I think of them now if I'll see them again,

So let it pass, let it pass away,

All those memories of yesterday.

This world's held so much love and pain that's made me feel so bad

I don't know if I should feel happy or sad.

Sometimes I feel if I could go through those times again

Maybe I could've made things come to a different end,

But let it pass, let it pass away.

All the memories of yesterday.

So as I go spinning from the past and toward the future I go

I should be thankful for all I've learned that's helped me meet the flow.

If it wasn't for the past I wouldn't be where I am now

But then again maybe I would be here anyhow,

So let it pass, let it pass away,

All the memories of yesterday.

"So, you like this place?" Kumar's question startled Roman. "Whoops, I hope I did not interrupt your meditation."

"Ah, no. That's okay. I guess I was just sort of putting all my past experiences and memories in their place," Roman replied, feeling that there was little else to do but to keep moving forward. The past is what it is, and now the only hope to make a difference in what has been is to bring about what is to be. He now felt like he could leave the past behind and step into the new possibilities of the future.

"Yes, I like this place a lot," Roman went on. "It's a really beautiful area. It's not a hectic place and there's plenty of time to relax and think about things, realize where you're at in life and figure out where to go next. I have not had as much of that as I should have. Always too busy, you know? It's so important for a person to realize what matters most to him. To know who you really are."

"Yes, I know," Kumar agreed. "Like so many of the sadhus that wander through, such as Narayanji. They have so few possessions, yet they are happy. You know why? Because they understand who they are and where they really fit into this world. They know what matters most in life. That is why I like these people here. I may not be able to wander around India with only a cloth and staff the way Narayanji does. I am not ready for that. After all, I still have my shop and my wife. But maybe someday. And that is why I think Narayanji and others like him always stop by my shop. Because they know I would like to be that way. So they give me their blessings in the form of their association. And somehow I also feel quite content.

"I used to live in Delhi," Kumar continued. "I had a big business, selling and shipping books to people all over the world. At the time I thought I was doing so well. I could make so many rupees a day. I was taking such good care of my family and thought, this is the life. But gradually there were so many problems. Books would get lost in the shipping or arrive damaged. Customers would want their money back. Or there might be orders placed for books that had gone out of print without the publisher telling me. And later the popularity of India, as there was in the sixties, declined. So there were not as many books being sold. In America, I don't know, maybe you do not have such problems. But in India even the simplest things can go wrong sometimes. After a while it became more than just sometimes. So when my son became old enough, I let him take over the business and I moved here. Now my son thinks he is doing so well," Kumar laughed, "but I would not change places with him for anything.

"Now I have my little shop here in Rishikesh. I have my little house next to the sacred Ganga. I make enough rupees to get by. My wife likes it. She has her friends here. And things are simple. It took me so long to realize what real happiness is. And I meet the best people in the world. So many people come from all over India, and the world, all trying to find peace, contentment, and God. Even if they stay for a short time, they go away feeling very different than when they arrived." Kumar now looked at Roman, the moonlight flashing in his eyes. "Then you have such saintly people like Narayanji and other sages who stop by my shop. They are the best, most gentle and learned of men. They roam all over India," Kumar's hand waved in the air, "and can tell you all kinds of stories about their adventures. And they are very advanced spiritually. They have experienced things that you and I can only hope to experience one day. No place else in the world have I found what I have found here. It is very simple, but it is more than enough.

"Of course, you may say I have not traveled very extensively. But through these saintly men I have been to places that few others even know exist." Kumar laughed again, "Some days I do not sell one book. I just sit and talk to the people and sadhus who come by. Then in the evening I come home, take a little food, and come down here to the Ganga and meditate. Or maybe my wife and I might go to a local temple and listen to a lecture by a traveling sadhu who has arrived in town." Kumar leaned back, took a deep breath, looked up into the stars and smiled. "I have everything."

"It's a pity more people do not feel that way," Roman said.

"My knowledge is not vast," continued Kumar, "but I know that we are all a part of God. We are all brothers. You may be from the West and I from the East, but we are not different. On the bodily level, we all have the same desires for happiness, the same needs for food, shelter, companionship, and the same fears for survival. And internally we are all spiritual beings that have come from God, and some day we will return to God. The path we take to do this is the only difference between us. And that is something we must all decide for ourselves. So what path will you take, my friend? Will you go up into the hills?"

"I've been thinking a lot about that," Roman confided. "Narayanji said you would tell me what to do." Roman then looked seriously at Kumar. "He said you would tell me how to find this Suhridam."

"First you must decide if you really want to go or not," Kumar cautioned Roman. "It is not so easy to find him. He lives a day's journey up into the hills, if you find him. If you do not find him, it can take many days. Or you may even get lost or die by some accident, like snakebite, and no one would ever know. Even if you do find him, what will you do then? Say hello to him, ask a few questions and then go? If that is all, it hardly would be worth the trouble. Anyway, if that is all, Suhridam would know and he would never let you find him. He would simply remain invisible. So what do you think?"

Roman took a deep breath and sighed. "I don't know," Roman replied thoughtfully. "Am I supposed to go or not? You thought I might have some connection with him when you saw the lines on my palms, like being part of a prophecy or something. And Narayanji seemed to agree. Or kind of agreed. Besides, what's this prophecy all about anyway?"

"Yes, Narayanji thought it might be possible for you to see Suhridam. And as far as the prophecy . . . well, let us just say that it has been said that a man will come from the West, a very inexperienced yet sincere man, and take instruction from Suhridam and then become very powerful in spiritual ways. But that does not mean that it is you. It might be someone who has not shown up yet. And anyway, as with all prophecies, you never know if they are true until they happen, do you? However, you will not find out unless you go," Kumar conclude with a smile.

"Now wait a minute," Roman interrupted. "Even Narayanji said I had many qualities, but they haven't been developed yet. I don't even know what qualities I'm supposed to have or what he saw in my palm. Now how am I supposed to develop those qualities unless something happens?"

"And you also do not know whether attaining those qualities will be easy or difficult," Kumar replied. "If you are serious about attaining them, then you must be prepared to do it in any way possible. Either through difficult means, if that is your destiny, or through an easy means. But in whatever one does in life, he has to make sacrifices to get to where he wants to go. And mystical qualities or spiritual advancement is no different. In fact, it can be harder than anything else you have ever done. But you are looking for your destiny, are you not?"

"Yes," Roman replied. "Yet, something sometime has to show me what I'm supposed to do."

"Actually, I think you already know the answer. Why do you persist to look outside yourself for direction when the answer simply may be waiting for you within? So look at your present moment in time as a door, a door that can open to show you what is your destiny. By opening that door you may find a new world awaiting for you on the other side. Or you may find, at worst, that the door slams back in your face." Kumar laughed at this idea. "But you have to take that chance. One thing about finding your destiny is that you must know when to be daring and when to be cautious, and, though I may not know you well, I do know, my friend, that you have been cautious long enough. Now is the time to be daring. Forget the warnings I was giving you. I said those things to test you, because I know what you must be thinking. The conclusion is that there is only one way to find out what will happen. There is no choice in the matter, my friend. In order to open that door of destiny, you must go. You must take the chance to find Suhridam Gosvami. You must open that door to see what is on the other side."

Kumar gave Roman a broad smile of confidence and said, "I will see you tomorrow, my friend," as he turned to leave. Roman, however, didn't feel so sure about what he might be getting himself into. Nonetheless, it was obvious that there was no other direction to go but forward, and that meant up into the hills.

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