THE DUSTY TWO-LANE road was a decaying application of gravel long ago spread on hardening tar. For the town, it has always been the road of life leading from one village to the next. There are thousands of them all over India.
But this town is special. The center of life here is the hermitage of the local “pope.” In India there are four religious districts (maths, pronounced “mutts”) that subdivide the nation. The spiritual leader of each math is the absolute spiritual authority for the area, similar to a pope. It has been this way for centuries. This town is the headquarters for Kanchi Math. All commerce and social life is somehow connected with the activities going on behind the adobe walls which surround the compound in the center of the village. There are no guards and the gates are wide open. Although the gates close at night, there are no robberies or fears of robbers.
The group of fifteen Westerners who got off the bus had no frame of reference for what was to come. Like most Americans, they had a ready laugh and talked too loud for the surroundings.
There are beggars here. The almseekers exist in a sort of hierarchy. Within the gates are certain beggars who have their stations. Outside the walls are others. There are no quarrels over location. Everyone knows everyone else’s status and station. One has no legs. Another is blind. The beggars here are relatively quiet and discreet, contrary to beggars in some other countries or even in Delhi and Bombay. So although there is poverty and want, there is also peace here and a sense of order. The price paid here for great spiritual power is stagnation. India struggles with the stagnation while millions of people ardently seek tangible spiritual power. Some have attained it.
The Americans on this spiritual journey tended to be generous and had to be instructed about almsgiving at the very beginning of their sojourn through ten assorted pilgrimage spots. They learned that only small amounts should be given to any of the beggars, or a riot could start. Mostly, they understood and complied, although there would almost be a mob “incident” in Hardwar from one traveler who decided to be over-generous.
The travelers were unaware that they were about to experience, first hand, the great power residing here.
The leader of this spiritual tour was well-known within Indian spiritual circles. Because he was mildly famous among spiritual leaders there, he gained entrance for the group to places and circumstances which might be unavailable to unescorted Western seekers. The group’s coming audience with the local “pope” was a testament to the teacher’s local fame.
As it turned out, the “pope” of this math was on a trip to another province. He had left two months previous with his entourage, walking the 250 miles to his destination. He would return by walking as well. Because of certain vows, the pope-leader of the math walks on ceremonial wooden sandals which are very awkward to use. He does not mind. Neither does he mind the endless ceremonial greetings which flow out to him at every tiny village through which he passes. It comes with the position, and he knows it. His patience for such things is as enduring as the poverty of the people.
In his absence, the “assistant pope” was in charge. Because long journeys are the rule for persons in these positions, each district has a head “pope” and an assistant. One of them always stays at the headquarters and presides. Thus, the district headquarters is never without the proper spiritual authority. On this day, the “assistant pope” was presiding as he had done for a couple of months and as he would do for the next several months.
The Americans were escorted into an enclosed courtyard with a small Shiva temple at one end. Inside the narrow enclosed area where the lingham (religious icon representing Shiva) is installed, several priests performed the Arati or “Waving of the Light.” The symbolism of the Arati is that the luminance of the small light of the soul is waved before the larger light of the transcendental Purusha or Great Soul, or “God of which we are a part,” as they say.
After the Arati, the Westerners were escorted through one of countless archway doors. This one lead to a small courtyard. At the far end of the courtyard stood a chair sitting on an eighteen-inch high pedestal. The chair was empty.
The teacher leading the tour of visitors took a moment to explain that no one should touch this man who would be coming out because it is considered rude. Then they all took their place, standing some fifteen feet back from the chair in a large semi-circle. A soft rustling entered from the back and a dark-skinned man with finely chiseled features entered the courtyard.
He was clothed in faded orange robes and wore wooden sandals that clattered ever so softly as he made his way toward the chair in an unhurried, almost casual manner. At a signal from the teacher, the Westerners began to sing a simple Sanskrit religious song well-known to the swami and his attendants who silently filed in after him.
The swami smiled and nodded and gently clapped his hands in rhythm to the simple chant. At its conclusion, he spoke quietly to the local teacher in Hindi. The exchange lasted only a few seconds, and the Westerners were then asked to sing another song. They complied. Next the swami asked the teacher to sing a solo... he is well-known for his singing and composing of spiritual songs. The swami had requested a specific song, so the teacher poured forth the song which he himself had written years ago. The swami appeared very pleased. After completing his song, the teacher became serious and asked the group to stand quietly in a semi-circle. Starting at one end of the group, the swami looked deeply into the eyes of each person for just a second... perhaps less, and then his gaze moved on.
The young man in the center of the group watched interestedly. He felt the beginning of a vague sense of disappointment because he had expected the blessing to be a bit different. He was familiar with the ceremonial bowing down to touch the feet of the spiritual teacher or guru. So when there was no formal receiving line for this activity, he wondered what this new method of paying respect might be. He was experienced enough to know that sometimes when the feet of certain teachers, priests and swamis were touched, a surge of energy would come through, “zapping” the supplicant in the process. He had experienced it on several occasions and knew of its beneficial effects. So when the swami started merely looking at people, he felt a slight disappointment which was quickly followed by a shrugging attitude of acceptance.
When the glance of the swami had moved to within three or four people to his right, he began to hear it. It sounded like the firing of a phaser might sound on sStar Trek or the whoosh of something moving by very fast. Then the sound was right next to him and very loud. Now the swami was looking at him and a surge of energy of some indescribably powerful sort entered his eyes. He had never experienced anything like it. Without burning or being in the least hot, it nonetheless burned its way quickly down into his body. It had no weight whatsoever. It had less mass than a spring breeze. It also had a specific destination, as he quickly learned.
With a painless sizzle, a beam of energy went directly down into his testicles. There the energy lingered slightly. A wad of some material that the young man had been carrying all of his life in his testicles disappeared quietly and painlessly. It didn’t burn in the sense one normally associated with that word. The wad simply... evaporated. He felt lighter. Emptier. The lump of inert gunk had seemed so much a part of him, that the young man had always assumed that it was just part of his anatomy. It wasn’t.
Then the swami’s gaze moved on, and the young man was left just standing there wondering if he had been irrevocably injured or hurt in some way. With a sense of urgent investigation his mind descended into the groin area. He frantically checked around mentally to see if everything was still intact. “Maybe this hadn’t been such a great idea,” he thought. “What if I’ve been permanently injured?” He reflected wryly that he might be a first-class fool to come 5,000 miles around the Earth to be spiritually castrated. What a great idea!
All of these potential negative ideas raced through his mind. He would probably never be the same. Worse, he could never explain it to anyone without their thinking he was crazy. The idea of medical assistance based upon his explanation of what had happened was simply out of the question. A host of swirling doubts and fears fogged his mind for several seconds. What if he was now impotent? What if he was no longer attractive to women? But in the end he realized that he felt, well, terrific. A burden of some sort had been lifted. It was as if someone had just taken a large load of uncomfortable rocks out of his crotch.
The swami finished looking at everyone, a task that took no more than fifteen seconds. The group was a bit dazed. The teacher turned them all around with a soft command, and they filed out silently.
Once back in the larger courtyard, a young woman in her early twenties leaned softly forward to the young man and said “Where did he get you?” She was smiling with the restraint of one who has experienced the impossible, but is still irrepressible. “Right in the testicles,” he replied. “Where did he get you?” He admired her spirit and he was as curious as she. “Right in the heart,” she replied. They nodded at each other silently. A bond was somehow formed that needed no words. No one else in the group said so much as a single word.
On the path leading out to the gate where the bus sat parked, the beggars who somehow qualified to be inside the walls of the temple sat quietly. The young man reached into his pocket for a couple of coins. He didn’t have enough. He took his last remaining coin and placed it into the basket of the first beggar. Then he stopped at each of the other two beggars and explained that he did not have change. He told them he would be back. He had no idea if they understood. Then he went outside the gate and got some change from one of the other visitors and walked back the forty yards to where the beggars were stationed. He placed coins in the basket of the other two beggars. As he turned and walked down the path toward the gate, he felt the soft wind of a healing energy in his back. He felt “observed,” slightly self-conscious, but good.
The warmth in his back continued as he walked back down the path. After a bit, he stole a quick look at the beggars, but by then they were quietly involved with the next group of people coming down the path. He would have wagered a large amount that they were working with some variation of that same energy, if such a thing could be proven.
Once back on the bus, no one spoke for the next twenty miles. Beyond that single exchange with the young woman, no one spoke of their experience at all over the remainder of the trip. There would be other experiences, but not like this one.
That young man was me, Thomas Ashley-Farrand. The year was 1978. Through this work, I will relate to you true incidents about people wielding fantastic spiritual power. My encounter with Laser Swami was one in a series of encounters with people who wielded such power as an everyday occurrence. Reassuringly, they used this power to help others. Laser Swami relieved me of a very large and uncomfortable piece of pain. There is still more junk in me which needs to go, but I now know beyond doubt that there is divine help for every problem.
Text copyright © 1997, 1998 Thomas Ashley-Farrand. Reprinted with permission from True Stories of Spiritual Power.
Thomas Ashley-Farrand (1940‒2000), also known as Namadeva Acharya, began having mystical experiences in 1968. He served and studied with organizations of a variety of religious traditions.
The Laser Swami’s name is Sri Jayendra Saraswati (b. 1935). He is now head of Kanchi Kamakoti Peetham.
This page was published on July 1, 2000 and last revised on June 21, 2017.