The Mother Divine
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Book Review
Author: Pandit Rajmani Tigunait
Reviewed by Vikas Shukla

Pandit Rajmani Tigunait is the spiritual head of the Himalayan Institute and the successor of Swami Rama of the Himalayas. Although he was born in a family of raj-purohits (royal priests), Rajmani grew up in a household beset by growing penury, for the rule of the king and the royal patronage had disappeared to give way to the new democratic order. “Touched by Fire” is an honest account of a young Rajmani’s spiritual journey through seemingly insurmountable odds and adversities. It is a beautiful account of the gradual lifting of veils and the Divine grace manifesting itself as teachers, guides and gurus, each a bridge to the next island in the journey.

Rajmani’s father, who himself had no school education, broke a long-held family superstition to send the young boy to a school; the first child in seven generations to do so. At home, a hard life of shrinking resources was teaching young Rajmani the value of simplicity, humility and contentment.

The first part of the narrative takes us through Rajmani’s childhood and particularly his early teachers, who seemed to appear to take charge of the young boy, as if on cue. We also begin to see the presence of Divine grace in Rajmani’s life, particularly in an incident involving a property dispute and a physical assault by some irate relatives. We become a witness to the process of slow spiritual maturing and strengthening of faith, as Rajmani battles with challenges both within and without. We find him falling prey to outbursts of anger, overwhelming ego, and fascination with the modern lifestyle, failures, doubts and despondency. However, each adversity goads him to introspect and turn a corner, often with the help of a guide who appears to be waiting just for him. In one incident of utter disenchantment with his education and his life, Rajmani decides to walk upstream along the bank of the Ganga till he finds what he is looking for. He has a chance meeting with Swami Sadananda, which become a turning point in his spiritual life. Swami Sadananda’s words, “He collects His sheep before dark” become the source of strength for Rajamani.

It is the appearance of the Divine Mother in a vivid dream that changes the direction of Rajmani’s life. The gentle guidance from the Divine turns into a sudden push when, through what would appear to be a series of coincidences, Rajmani blunders into a hotel and comes face to face with his master Swami Rama. While Rajmani thinks it is a chance meeting with a kind and graceful stranger, the Master appears to be waiting for him! This is a second beginning for Rajmani as he is propelled into a whole new life under his Master.

What follows is a series of lessons and hard tests. In being sent to spend 2 weeks in a coal-mining town on the pretext of discovering God, to sitting at the feet of other masters to learn yogic practices, Rajmani recognises his failings and discovers new strengths. Swami Rama tests him at every step, often driving him to the point of despair. While the guru keeps a close watch and severely reprimands his disciple at every failing, there is always an endless stream of love and compassion to soothe Rajmani’s soul.

The passing of Swami Rama and the incidents that follow, mark the dawn of true understanding for Pandit Tigunait. In a deep state of introspection he realises his guru’s mandate and the Divine will.

It is a fascinating tale of a young man’s struggle with uncertainty, his fears and foibles, and his desperate search for his purpose in life. It is also a song of hope and testament to the presence of Divine in our lives, should we seek it or not. It reverberates with the readers as they find their own feelings and failings reflected in the life of the young Rajmani. It makes one strangely at peace and one is left contemplating the prayer by Pandit Tigunait, “May this light walk by my side...”