I stumbled on Vedanta on the internet after spending around 15 years studying first Christianity and then Buddhism. After some further exploration, I read the book I am That by Nisargadatta and was absolutely blown away! I just had to know more so I watched everything I could find online and read any books that I could find. For decades I had been struggling with a debilitating mental illness and alcoholism and was trying to understand why the world was the way it was and why I was suffering so much. I learned all I could from the internet and books, but my life was deteriorating to the point where I could no longer function enough to do that. I finally went under. I don’t remember much during those final months, just coming in and out of consciousness and memories of chaos all around me. The illness took me over completely and a friend called my family and told them I was about to die and they needed to get me, sooner rather than later.
Somehow, I ended up in a psyche hospital for 3 months as I gradually regained some normal cognitive functioning. Upon discharge, the doctors thought I should move away from my previous environment and I moved to Green Valley into one of my father’s rental units. In the hospital, I had been exploring Vedanta further and discovered Swami Sarvapriyananda and fell in love with his talks. I continued watching them in Green Valley and bought some of the books that he had been reading from. Inside one of the books was mentioned the website Vedanta.org and I looked it up. It listed that nearby Tucson had a center and had a phone number to call. I called and I learned that a couple lived in Green Valley too. I was overjoyed! I was shown the ropes of the Ramakrishna Order and introduced to Swami Sarvadevananda. I was soon initiated and I immediately felt that I had truly found my real home – both within my heart and in the Ramakrishna Order. That was on June 1st, 2018. I was 47 years old.
Since then, I have practiced the teachings and watched as my life improved in many ways – spiritually, financially, and mentally. I believe the mantra seed placed within me by Swami Sarvadevananda during initiation has changed my orientation to life completely, from an outer focus to an inner focus, and this has relieved me of much of the sufferings of the worldly life and from the pain of my mental illness. And I now have a home within, a divine refuge, which I can take shelter in whenever life gets too hard, and it’s a refuge of great peace and bliss and always available.
As I learn and realize more, I see new vistas and further heights to climb. It has given my life direction and purpose and has healed me from the hellish existence I was trapped in. And the sweetest part of it all was that it was done completely by Grace, and I now know that there’s a Great Love beyond my mental illness and addictions that is always protecting, guiding, and nurturing me. An unconditional Love and is always there whenever I turn to it, and even when I don’t. I am now blessed with friends who share my values, a guru that is always ready to guide me in love, and a measure of sanity that I did not know was even possible before. Jai Ma!