Awakened: Meetings with Indian Saints by Michael O'Callaghan, Paperback | Barnes & Noble
Awakened: Meetings with Indian Saints

Awakened: Meetings with Indian Saints

by Michael O'Callaghan
Awakened is an invitation to a spiritual journey. It provides inspiration to those already on the path and those considering embarking on one. Dr. O'Callaghan shows that travel on an Eastern spiritual path can be a raucous and, at times, irreverent adventure, with wild roller coaster ups and downs, as well as deeply satisfying emotional experiences.

Her account


Awakened is an invitation to a spiritual journey. It provides inspiration to those already on the path and those considering embarking on one. Dr. O'Callaghan shows that travel on an Eastern spiritual path can be a raucous and, at times, irreverent adventure, with wild roller coaster ups and downs, as well as deeply satisfying emotional experiences.

Her account is a humorous, travel-filled adventure of an American seeker's pilgrimage to India and back. She introduces us to four living Indian saints, one of whom is a severe guru-Swami Sachchidananda Ganapati. He is intolerant of Michael's indulgent Western ways, and with ruthless efficiency shatters her intellectual world of soft abstractions and unrealistic expectations about blithely floating into enlightenment.

Like a cosmic movie director, Swamiji provides horrifying real life lessons in overcoming the senses and annihilating the ego so she can merge with God. At the same time, he is a musician who creates celestial healing and meditation music. (Music happens to be one of Michael's favorite pursuits). Further, Swamiji displays stunning telepathic abilities and miraculous powers.

Unlike books that are merely descriptions of external events, Dr. O'Callaghan focuses her professional eye on the experiential internal landscape which occurs during meditation and while in the presence of an enlightened being. She shows how difficulties contain hidden lessons on "cracking the hard coconut of the ego," i.e., transcending our ego-that limited view of our self as separate.

We experience this first hand through such funny, though hard earned, lessons as, how difficult it is to rise above the senses when uninvited monkeys, insects, and a phobia of germs up against unfamiliar hygienic standards are the immediate challenges at the ashram. These plus other surprises are put in the context of the usual resistances as we watch her learn to reframe problems and emotional upheaval as the requisite purification, karma, or stress release leading to an enlightened state. In contrast to the Christian perspective of sin being the greatest obstacle to God, the greatest hindrance in the Eastern view is the habit of seeing oneself as separate from God.

Over and over, Dr. O'Callaghan sheds light on the process of total surrender which is required in a guru-disciple relationship, and seen here in stark contrast with the Western veneration of individuality and independence. But can she surrender? Can she even accept the guru as god-man, or god-woman-a concept foreign to those raised believing that worship of a human as god is sin, sacrilege, or heresy. We have the chance to see for ourselves as she survives Swamiji to visit him again in the States, plus visit three more living saints:
� Sri Viswayogi, who is an Avadoota-one free of bondage to the material world, dedicated to the welfare of humanity, and whose unpredictable behavior is beyond all social convention
� Ammachi, the well-known "Hugging Saint," who teaches the value of selfless service as an expression of divine love
� Karunamayi who sings like a nightingale and teaches knowledge of Vedic chants and mantras. She provides materials to train her devotees in these powerful forms of ritual prayer which promote individual and world peace.

We can also meet these saints in person on their frequent world tours.

Dr. O'Callaghan educates by not only highlighting cultural differencesand clarifying Hindu concepts, but she also includes a glossary of Indian and Sanskrit terms. Awakened provides insights to smooth the progress of fellow travelers who may feel isolated living in a society where Judeo-Christian values predominate. By sharing her difficulties and successes on the spiritual journey, she puts our own challenges and doubts into perspective.

Product Details

Spirit Wings Publishing
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
6.04(w) x 9.12(h) x 0.50(d)

Read an Excerpt

"All the Catholic saints are dead. I can't believe you've come all the way to Baton Rouge to see a saint who's alive." Her Louisiana accent carried the words like a gentle breeze. My hostess looked upward, then sideways as she reached theological resolution. "I guess that's the difference between Hinduism and Catholicism," she said.

I had never met Swamiji. A woman in a purple sari at a gathering for Ammachi, another great Hindu saint, had introduced me to him through a photograph. Swamiji's dark piercing eyes, framed by a red turban, stared out at me; he had jet-black hair and a full beard. The guru's intensity and power captured my attention. His lips were full, his face youthful and radiant. I took the picture from her and continued staring at him. Swamiji's intent look had inspired me to make the eight-hour drive from Austin to meet him. I knew nothing about him except that he lived in India and was making a visit to Baton Rouge. But I felt drawn to him. At this time in my life I was ready for a saint, and especially now, after a chaotic siege with a broken foot, which had gone undiagnosed for a month.

The doctor had warned me that I needed surgery, but then might never walk again if I had it. Insurance companies and my employer balked. I felt enraged and vulnerable. After agonizing too long, I finally called the operating room and said I would not show up for the operation scheduled the next morning.

In recompense for my troubles, I was led not to one, but two Indian saints on the same day: Swamiji in Louisiana in the morning and Karunamayi in Texas in the evening. I had seen the lovely saint Karunamayi before. Between the full moon ceremonies honoring the unbroken feet of each of these two great gurus lay a mere seven-hour drive.

Darshan is an audience with and blessing of a holy person. The delicious, brief taste of enlightenment experienced in the presence of a saint-receiving darshan as it is called-was becoming familiar to me, and I pursued it with relish. I found it inspired my perseverance on the spiritual path.

The outwardly non-descript Indian temple in Baton Rouge was smack in the middle of an industrial complex off the main road. Except for the sea of shoes in front, the single storey temple was undistinguishable from the surrounding pale brick buildings. As I approached the entrance I saw bright-colored, swirling chalk designs on the sidewalk. The details of the design, created in honor of Swamiji, left no lasting image, but the feeling was unmistakably Indian. Its intricate swirls and spirals were reminiscent of the long journey back to the Self in the quest for enlightenment. The colored dust residue, which would vanish with the next rain, bespoke the transience of the world and the fleeting chance to enjoy the blessing of Swamiji's rare visit from India.

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