I HAVE ALWAYS experimented with my life, and joining a Buddhist organisation a few years ago was another one of those experiments. Though I tried hard to attend meetings, I didn’t always find the time — my job always seemed to come in the way. But I didn’t worry too much because my life was perfect. I remember thinking, “I have a good job, a great family, people who adore me and I am engaged to the man I love. Do I even need to pray?”
My answer came one year later. January 12, 2005, was like any other day. I was on my way to office in an auto when, inexplicably, I broke down. There I was, the girl who never shed a tear in front of people, howling in front of the whole world as though my life had ended. A seemingly innocent verbal duel with my brother earlier that morning had opened the floodgates to emotions buried deep inside. I was overwhelmed by feelings of rejection, self-pity and worthlessness. I had to fight with myself not to jump off the auto and kill myself right then and there.
A small part of my rational self knew that I had to do something. I asked the auto driver to take me to Vimhans (Vidyasagar Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences), where a friend had recently sought help. I sat there for two hours saying things I did not know I felt — feelings of inferiority from constantly being compared with my ‘model material’ sisters, the pain of growing up in a family that was forever struggling with finances, the loss of my father to cancer when I was only 16, the disappointment with my high-profile job where really, I was no more than a glamourised data entry operator. My life suddenly seemed surreal, like I had not really lived through any of this. Another me had emerged, one who was tired of hiding behind the facade of normalcy.
I was diagnosed by the psychologists at Vimhans with chronic depression and told that years of counseling and medication is what it would take to be free of my demons. But although venting all that emotion helped me, a couple of sessions later, I still found myself in the midst of hell. I just couldn’t see the purpose of my life. I felt no confidence in my doctors and frequently had suicidal thoughts. A fellow Buddhist asked me to try and chant, even if it made no sense. I tried, but my mind was not in my control. I was losing the battle and just when I thought that things could not get any worse, they did.
On February 14, I got a call from a girl claiming to be my fiancé’s girl friend. I knew instinctively that she was telling the truth. I think, subconsciously, I knew he had never been mine and had always feared losing him. But I had been in love with this man for the last four years and had dreamt of a future with him — to discover that he had been cheating was shattering. I collapsed. I could not breathe. Once again, I called my friend, a fellow Buddhist, and once again her advice was: “Chant; it will be fine”. I still couldn’t do it. I popped two sleeping pills instead and went to bed.
The next day, when my fiancé called to apologise, although there was no question of taking him back, I somehow found the strength to say, “I forgive you.” I did not blame him; I blamed myself for trusting him but I didn’t want to deal with him just then. I just wanted to survive; to look in the mirror and not feel disgust, to live my life and to see the beauty in it all. But I could not forgive myself. My mind was blank; my spirit had died. Dark clouds surrounded me. Finally, I began to chant.
I chanted just one line, again and again and again, with my eyes open — facing my problems head-on. I was not thinking about divinity or the life-force but something amazing happened. The tears stopped and a smile spread across my face. A weight lifted and I could see everything clearly. I was free. From a moment of hell, I had reached a stage of complete bliss. Obviously, the feeling did not last forever. But that moment, the way I would react to situations had changed forever and I had finally accepted myself, with all my flaws. From that moment on, my life took a turn for the better. The girl who was once diagnosed with chronic depression has not had to see a counselor since. The girl who did not share her feelings is sharing her life with you, has met her soulmate, is happily married and totally in love with life!
Though I describe myself as more of a free thinker than a Buddhist, this transformative experience still sends a thrill through my body and soul. I finally understood what Buddha meant when he said: “You, more than anyone else in the world, deserve your love”.
I wish my soul could always be steady and loving but I know that’s not possible. I realise that I will falter. But my courage lies in being able to get up again. I know, now, that miracles happen.