24 krishnaarchana april 2023 FEATURE By Dr. M. P. Ravindra Nathan A Transformational Journey Something momentous happened in my life when I was just six years old. My father called me one day and asked, “How do you like to go to Guruvayur temple and get a Darshan of Lord Guruvayurappan?” “Of course; when are we going?” I said, all excited. “But is it a long trip?” I didn’t like venturing too far away from home, my comfort zone. We lived in Vypeen, a small island on the west coast of Kerala, a few miles from Kochi Harbor. No transportation facilities were available at that time on the island, and to get to any place, we had to walk two miles first to the ferry boat landing. And then catch a boat to Ernakulam and, from there, a train to Thrissur, followed by a bus ride to Guruvayur –quite a journey for a little boy! But having grown up in a religious family and listening to the stories of little Krishna and His delightful pranks, I couldn’t wait to go to Guruvayur and pray. Just before we started, my mother said to me, “Ravi, Guruvayur is the Vaikundham (celestial world of Lord Vishnu) on earth. People from all over go there and pray to get Guruvayurappan’s blessings.” My memories of that event haven’t lost their freshness despite the passage of time. So, we started towards Guruvayur, my mind full of anticipation. But halfway through the train journey, feeling exhausted, I kept asking the same question, “Are we there yet?”. Finally, we reached the temple area by evening and checked into a previously arranged small lodge. We freshened up and walked to the temple. Even from a distance, I could see the huge throng of devotees chanting, “Guruvayurappa, rakshikkane”. That’s when I realized this is no ordinary temple. Divinity oozed out from every pillar, lamp and literally every particle there. Later, every time I listen to the melodious lyrics sung by K J Yesudas, Guruvayur Ambalam Sree Vaikundham Aviduthe Shankamaanente Kandam Kaalindi Pole Jana Pravaaham, Ithu Kaalkkalekko Vaaka Chaarthilekko I think of my mother’s words and thank my father who was responsible for my first visit to Guruvayur temple with fond nostalgia. My father and I somehow managed to get close to the sanctum and get a darshan with the help of one of our friends, a spiritualist who later became my guru in religious studies, popularly known as Swamy Guruvayurappa Das (Thirumulpad). He said, “Let me teach you how to pray. Almost everyone asks for material gains, like getting a good job, passing a difficult exam, curing an illness, etc. There is nothing wrong with that, but it’s better to ask, ‘Lord, I am ignorant, so please help me to achieve what You think I should.’ He will help you and guide you to attain what you wish and what you deserve.” To this day, I still pray that way, and I am happy to say He has guided me through my entire life to achieve whatever I have set out to do. “All children are shaped by their parents,” we say. That is true in my case too. That first visit to Guruvayurappan Temple was a transformational event for me. My father always emphasized the importance of ‘Faith in one’s daily life’, and I have always followed his advice. What he taught me about God and the trip I made to Guruvayur during my childhood helped mould my belief system in later life. The spirituality inculcated in me in early life has stayed with me with the same intensity, and I am happy that my belief system has come to my rescue in so many ways and countless times. Many of my friends know that my life has been a tough obstacle course, and I had to face many daunting healthrelated challenges and exigencies during this roller coaster ride. There were so many close calls; I couldn’t have survived these without some divine intervention. I am one who strongly believes there is true power in prayers. Life is a long, often difficult journey full of vicissitudes, but ultimately everybody wants happiness. In order to survive these ups and downs – with special emphasis on the downs –we need a little help and guidance. In times of crisis, we should be able to run to somebody for consolation, advice and encouragement. In other words, we need a repository for all our worries, doubts and problems. Somebody to cast our cares on, hear our pleas, and walk with us, maybe to hold our hand or even carry us. That somebody, for me, has always been Lord Guruvayurappan. The sloka in Bhagavad