The spiritual journey to Sainthood of H.H. Bhavana Shinde
Through numerous hardships in life, H.H. Bhavana Shinde persevered in her spiritual practice to reach Sainthood. This is her unique spiritual journey; it is something that all seekers can learn from.
We suggest that you familiarise yourself with the articles below to better understand this article :
Table of Contents
- 1. Introduction to a Saint’s spiritual journey
- 2. Early childhood of H.H. Bhavana Shinde
- 3. A change in her teenage years
- 4. Young adulthood in America
- 5. The start of H.H. Bhavana Shinde’s spiritual search
- 6. Finding her path to God
- 7. Starting spiritual practice
- 8. First visit to the Spiritual Research Centre and Ashram, in Goa, India and meeting Paratpar Guru Dr Athavale
- 9. Deepening her spiritual practice
- 10. Becoming aware of spiritual distress
- 11. Focusing more on collective spiritual practice
- 12. Progressing rapidly due to making intense efforts in spiritual practice
- 13. Keeping a focus on God in all situations
- 14. Working on manifestations of ego for further spiritual progress
- 15. Her efforts to work on expectations and increasing introversion
- 16. Reaching Sainthood
- 17. Her current responsibilities
- 18. Conclusion
1. Introduction to a Saint’s spiritual journey
It is extremely rare that a seeker progresses spiritually and attains Sainthood, let alone someone who has suffered from higher levels of spiritual distress, adverse destiny and many other challenges in life. One such example is that of Her Holiness Bhavana Shinde.
What makes Her Holiness (H.H.) Bhavana Shinde’s spiritual journey truly remarkable is her tenacity, intense desire and a don’t-give-up attitude where she met all hardships with courage and devotion to finally attain Sainthood.
Every Saint’s journey is unique, and seekers can derive immense inspiration from them. This is because, for any seeker, it is difficult to understand how to go towards God or get His direct guidance, as we cannot perceive God. Very few of us have the advanced sixth sense to tap into the Universal Mind and Intellect. Additionally, the subtle world is vast and often negative energies from this world create obstacles and misguide seekers of God. Learning from seekers who have evolved spiritually and attained Sainthood despite facing obstacles presents invaluable insight for any seeker on how to progress spiritually in today’s world. The actions, thoughts, perspectives, behaviour and life journeys of Saints serve as guidelines for us seekers on how to make efforts to grow spiritually.
In Spirituality, growing spiritually on one’s own strength and decisions is exceedingly difficult. This is especially so in the present times (Kaliyug). We need constant guidance and support from the spiritually evolved. Since Saints have walked the path themselves, they can guide us practically about how to overcome obstacles and make efforts. The reason why SSRF publishes the spiritual journeys of Saints is so we can learn from their efforts and implement them in our lives.
In Paratpar Guru Dr Athavale’s words,
“The true benefit of this article can only be obtained when we gain inspiration and practice Spirituality by learning from the Saint’s efforts and qualities (like the spiritual journey of H.H. Bhavana Shinde). She faced many hardships along the way, which helped her to develop an understanding of others. Thus, she can relate to a wide variety of people and guide them on their spiritual journeys.”
2. Early childhood of H.H. Bhavana Shinde
H.H. Bhavana Shinde was born in Mumbai, India on 3rd May 1972. She showed a strong inclination towards Spirituality from a young age. From the age of two to four, she lived with her grandmother and grandfather in Solapur, a city in Western India. Her grandmother would perform ritualistic worship of Deities daily and H.H. Bhavana Shinde would watch her keenly. Even though she was so young, she would wake up daily at 4 AM, bathe and then help her grandmother to bring flowers to be offered to Deities as a part of the worship. After some time, H.H. Bhavana Shinde’s grandmother let her clean the altar and offer flowers, while her grandmother would offer incense. Even at this tender age, H.H. Bhavana Shinde recalls experiencing Bliss while taking part in the ritualistic worship.
H.H. Bhavana Shinde at the age of three with her parents and brother
She continued to perform ritualistic worship of Deities after she moved to her parents’ home from the age of 4 even though no one told her to do so. Sometimes, she would get so engrossed in the worship that she would continue doing it for 2 hours.
H.H. Bhavana Shinde at the age of 10
H.H. Bhavana Shinde’s mother suffered from psychological problems. Later, it was diagnosed by a Saint that the psychological problems were actually due to black magic being done on her. However, her family suffered social ostracism due to the social stigma associated with mental illness at the time. She was also teased at school. As a result, the environment in which H.H. Bhavana Shinde grew up was quite difficult. Due to her mother’s distress and the social stigma attached to it, she did not have a normal childhood. One example of the difficulties faced by the family was that her mother lost her job and was hospitalised for a good part of the next 10 years as a result of her psychological problems. H.H. Bhavana Shinde herself had to stay away from school for an entire year as the family struggled to remedy the situation. Despite this, she was calm and experienced Bliss throughout her childhood. She intuitively understood that this was her real state, which did not depend upon external circumstances. She was a bright child and did well in school. She was well behaved and was obedient towards her parents. However, despite such traumatic circumstances, she remembers her mother by her gentleness and her father by his inner strength, which helped the family to stay together. She is grateful to have had such parents and brothers who exemplified self-sacrifice and a loving nature with which they supported each other at every step.
3. A change in her teenage years
When H.H. Bhavana Shinde was 16, she began experiencing a sudden change in her personality. She became obsessed with fulfilling materialistic goals. Due to peer pressure, she became consumed with the desire to do well in school, go to America and build a career there. She became interested in becoming like the popular youths at her school and she wanted to look and behave like them. She was interested in fashion and her appearance.
H.H. Bhavana Shinde at the age of 18
Another thing that started happening is that she began experiencing intense bouts of anger. The anger was extreme, and H.H. Bhavana Shinde shared that at the time the phrase ‘blind fury’ made sense to her because when she got very angry, she got so angry that she could not see – this was to such an extent that everything used to go black in front of her. Looking back, H.H. Bhavana Shinde shared that she cannot imagine how much pain she caused to her loved ones due to her anger. Just as her childhood was full of Bliss and brightness, her teenage years were characterised by anger, depression and darkness. The depression in part was due to her changing educational institutions. At the new institution, she found that people were distant and she found herself looking for a sense of belonging. This led to loneliness and discouragement.
H.H. Bhavana Shinde at the age of 22
4. Young adulthood in America
H.H. Bhavana Shinde’s ambition brought her to the USA. After completing her B.S. in Computer Engineering at the University of Mumbai, she went on to complete her Master’s in Business Administration at the University of Miami and graduated in 1997.
Autumn of 1995 in Miami during her MBA Scholarship
Due to her innate intelligence and hardworking nature, H.H. Bhavana Shinde did exceptionally well. At one point, she had 8 internship offers, which was remarkable considering that getting 1 or 2 offers was considered a success.
Summer of 1996, Internship in Miami
She had everything she had wanted, but one incident (listed below) made her realise that she had lost the Bliss that was independent of external circumstances that she experienced during childhood.
5. The start of H.H. Bhavana Shinde’s spiritual search
H.H. Bhavana Shinde in the summer of 1996 at the University of Miami
In the summer of 1996, when she was at the University of Miami, H.H. Bhavna Shinde met her future husband. She would keenly look forward to his calls. As time went by, she realised that if he did not call her, she would feel quite upset, whereas she would feel intense happiness when he did call her. These oscillations between happiness and unhappiness based on receiving a call were in stark contrast to her state of mind during her childhood, where she would constantly be in a blissful state despite her family and herself going through a very difficult time. She reflected on how things had changed. Now, in contrast, even though she had everything she had been dreaming of since her teenage years, she would feel unhappy just by not getting a phone call.
This realisation had a deep impact on H.H. Bhavana Shinde, and she realised that something was missing in her life. She recalled the stories of Saints that she had watched movies about as a child. She remembered how Saint Tukaram was constantly persecuted in society, but he was always in a state of Bliss and went through everything with a smile and devotion to God. H.H. Bhavana Shinde realised that she wanted to become like that and to be in continual Bliss and service to God and humanity. This marked the start of H.H. Bhavana Shinde’s spiritual quest.
To find answers, H.H. Bhavana Shinde joined a church and began to diligently study the New Testament of the Holy Bible for 2 hours every day from the summer of 1996 until December 1998. She would study 1-2 pages deeply for 2 hours and then would often have questions about the teachings. She truly enjoyed the devotion of the participants in the Bible study groups she attended, but when she asked her questions, she would find that the answers did not satisfy her.
6. Finding her path to God
H.H. Bhavana Shinde got married in 1998. After getting married, H.H. Bhavana Shinde moved to Atlanta. Later that year, she gave birth to a son whom she named Afolabi. When she was in hospital for the delivery of her baby, the nurse who came to attend to her after she gave birth was Mrs Sharon Sequeira, the sister of Mr Sean Clarke, the editor of the SSRF website. Sharon later shared that she had been asked if she wanted to attend to H.H. Bhavana Shinde or go on her lunch break. When Sharon saw H.H. Bhavana Shinde’s name, she felt that God told her that this is a person with spiritual potential. So, Sharon postponed her lunch break to attend to her. When Sharon saw H.H. Bhavana Shinde’s baby, she realised she had seen the same baby in a dream a few days ago. As a result, Sharon skipped her lunch break and stayed with H.H. Bhavana Shinde. During that time, they only spoke about Spirituality. Sharon invited H.H. Bhavana Shinde to attend satsangs (spiritual meetings) that were being held in Atlanta as per the teachings of Paratpar Guru Dr Athavale.
Initially, H.H. Bhavana Shinde was reluctant to follow Sharon’s advice or attend the satsangs. This is because Sharon was well known as a former model in India, and at the time, H.H. Bhavana Shinde felt a person with a background in the entertainment industry cannot guide her about Spirituality. However, an incident a few months later changed her perspective.
H.H. Bhavana Shinde was reading a biography of a Saint named Ramakrishna Paramahansa. She read about how he pined for God so much that at one point he was rolling in the dirt yearning to get a vision of God. This made H.H. Bhavana Shinde think about how much she was doing to realise God. Then, she remembered how Sharon had invited her to attend satsang. So, she called Sharon and then attended her first satsang in December 1998.
December 1998, Atlanta – H.H. Bhavana Shinde after attending her 1st satsang and buying a book on Spirituality compiled by Paratpar Guru Dr Athavale
There, she asked the questions she had about the Bible, which she had not received satisfactory answers to before. However, this time, she got the answers she was looking for from Sharon. In fact, Sharon answered H.H. Bhavana Shinde in such a satisfactory manner that H.H. Bhavana Shinde realised that this marked the end of her spiritual search and the start of her spiritual journey.
7. Starting spiritual practice
H.H. Bhavana Shinde shared in her words, “By attending the satsangs, I got direction in my spiritual practice. I understood that I should study Holy books written by Paratpar Guru Dr Athavale. As there was no SSRF website at the time, these Holy books were all we had to study His teachings. There were 5 books available, and I studied them with as much dedication as possible.
– I felt that the Holy book ‘Introduction to Spirituality’ was like the grammar of Spirituality. This is because after reading it, one can understand the language of Spirituality.
– The book ‘Gurukrupayog’ taught me not to go looking for a Guru, and that the Guru will come into the disciple’s life when he is ready.
– The Holy book ‘The teachings of His Holiness Bhaktaraj Maharaj’ said that the chant is the unmanifest form of the Guru, so I considered the chant as my spiritual master.
Due to such learnings, the satsangs I attended were invaluable to me and I did not miss even a single one.”
While H.H. Bhavana Shinde’s spiritual journey started to gain momentum, her married life took a downward turn. Her husband would beat her periodically. One day, she was due to attend satsang in the evening. Prior to that, her husband started to hit her. This time, she felt it had gone too far and called the police. The police took her husband into custody. Despite the problems and the emotional turmoil she faced on that day, later that evening, she attended the satsang as planned. This showed the determination of H.H. Bhavana Shinde to attend the satsang and to persevere in her spiritual practice.
8. First visit to the Spiritual Research Centre and Ashram, in Goa, India and meeting Paratpar Guru Dr Athavale
H.H. Bhavana Shinde (right) visiting the Kandali Ashram of Saint Bhaktaraj Maharaj in 2000 with Dr (Mrs) Rashmi Nalladaru (left) and Saint Bhaktaraj Maharaj’s daughter-in-law (centre)
In July 2000, H.H. Bhavana Shinde took leave from work for 5 weeks and decided to visit the Spiritual Research Centre and Ashram in Goa, India. For the first 4 weeks, Paratpar Guru Dr Athavale arranged for her to travel with Dr (Mrs) Rashmi Nalladaru to meet many different Saints from different paths of spiritual practice. He wanted to acquaint her with the world of Saints, spiritual vibrations and what true Spirituality was about. During the visits to different Saints, H.H. Bhavana Shinde realised that all true Saints are the same from within. She would do subtle experiments when meeting different Saints. She tried to experience the positive energy she was feeling with different Saints as different Saints emit different spiritual vibrations. For example, in some cases, she would perceive Divine Energy (Shakti), in some cases Bliss (Anand) and in a few cases Serenity (Shanti). All Saints spoke very highly of Paratpar Guru Dr Athavale. Due to the grace of Paratpar Guru Dr Athavale, she started to realise what is the true spiritual world. To her, this world was amazing and far beyond what she had ever imagined. She became more and more engrossed in its wonder.
H.H. Bhavana Shinde’s first satsang with Paratpar Guru Dr Athavale
Earlier in her life, H.H. Bhavana Shinde once had a vision of Lord Ganesh. She longed to have this vision again. She would plead with God, ‘Why you don’t give me Your vision again ? I’m not asking you for any money or any materialistic things. You are infinite. So, why you don’t give me your vision again ?’
When she met Paratpar Guru Dr Athavale, He asked her, “I heard you want to meet God. So, when you meet God, what will you do ?”
H.H. Bhavana Shinde did not say much. Then, He just said one word, “Gratitude”.
As time went by, she forgot about the incident, but later in December 2002, after 1.5 years, it suddenly dawned upon her what He meant when He told her to have gratitude. He meant to help her introspect on whether she had gratitude when she received the first vision which God gave her before expecting more from God ! This realisation became the catalyst for H.H. Bhavana Shinde to make efforts to awaken her spiritual emotion. As a part of these efforts, she started offering her gratitude to God for everything. She realised that one’s Guru’s presence in one’s life is so subtle yet ubiquitous. That visit to India and meeting Paratpar Guru Dr Athavale was a milestone in her life. It changed her life.
9. Deepening her spiritual practice
By the time H.H. Bhavana Shinde’s son Afolabi was 5 years old, H.H. Bhavana Shinde separated from her first husband (2004). H.H. Bhavana Shinde and Afolabi did spiritual practice together. It was challenging being a single mother, earning for both her and her son and doing spiritual practice, but H.H. Bhavana Shinde persevered with single-minded focus.
Around this time, the Personality Defect Removal (PDR) process was introduced to seekers. H.H. Bhavana Shinde was not completely new to this process, because she had been given an Autosuggestion early on in her spiritual practice for anger. As mentioned earlier, H.H. Bhavana Shinde’s anger was so intense that she would lose the ability to see when she was angry. So, in addition to chanting, she was given an Autosuggestion for anger when she started spiritual practice. The Autosuggestion was :
‘Whenever I start to feel angry, I will become aware of it and realise that not every battle is worth fighting. Hence, I will calm down and start chanting.’
H.H. Bhavana Shinde had tried many remedies for her anger such as counting, trying to let things go, being kind, etc. but nothing had worked. She shared, “After starting to take this Autosuggestion, there was an incident where I wanted to bang a door in anger. However, as I was about to, the words of the Autosuggestion played in my head and for the first time, I became aware of my anger. Then, I realised that not every battle is worth fighting and began to chant, just as the Autosuggestion said. From then on, I never again banged a door in anger. Over the next few months, the intensity of my anger went on decreasing until it was below average.” This was another milestone in her spiritual journey. H.H. Bhavana Shinde drew inspiration from her early success with Autosuggestions and focused on the PDR process diligently. She wrote 10 mistakes a day without fail and took Autosuggestions diligently.
H.H. Bhavana Shinde also made sincere efforts to awaken her spiritual emotion. At the time she started these efforts, there was no book on how to awaken spiritual emotion, and she had only received guidance to pause every 10 minutes and make efforts to awaken spiritual emotion. As she did not know what efforts to make in this regard, she simply set an alarm for every 10 minutes, paid gratitude for being reminded each time and tried to chant God’s Name. After doing this for 2 hours, she experienced an intense awakening of spiritual emotion that lasted for 2 days. This was something that she had never experienced before. She would be driving on the highway and suddenly find herself inspired with thoughts of poetry in praise of God. She was graced with this experience due to her efforts to implement the guidance given to her.
After practising awakening spiritual emotion in this manner for some time, H.H. Bhavana Shinde started getting inspired to take certain actions to feel spiritual emotion; for example, keeping the spiritual emotion that the food on her plate belongs to the Guru, or that ironing the creases on her cloth is removing defects and ego in the form of the wrinkles. Later, when the book on Awakening Spiritual Emotion was published, many of the efforts that H.H. Bhavana Shinde was getting inspired to make from within were actually published in the book as efforts a seeker could make. So, she realised how God helped her to increase her spiritual emotion by motivating her from within to make specific efforts (to awaken spiritual emotion), despite her not having any book to refer to.
10. Becoming aware of spiritual distress
H.H. Bhavana Shinde had spiritual distress, but she was not aware of it. Spiritual distress can be elusive in nature. In most cases, when one is affected by it severely, one does not know that one is affected. This was the case with H.H. Bhavana Shinde. Even in her bouts of intense rage during her teenage years and young adulthood, she did not realise then or at the beginning of her spiritual practice that it was due to distress caused by negative energies.
From the year 2000 onwards, H.H. Bhavana Shinde would come to the Spiritual Research Centre and Ashram regularly and stay for 5 weeks at a time. Although her responsible seeker had told H.H. Bhavana Shinde about spiritual distress and she intellectually understood the concept, she had not understood the magnitude and gravity of the distress that was affecting her.
10.1 The first manifestation of the negative energy affecting H.H. Bhavana Shinde
In January 2006, she was at the Spiritual Research Centre in Goa, India. Her spiritual distress was showing up more and seekers were telling her to chant when they observed it. H.H. Bhavana Shinde used to feel irritated when seekers did so, but she was unaware as to why she felt this way. On one occasion, H.H. Bhavana Shinde was attending an experiment that was being conducted to understand the subtle vibrations being emitted from various coloured cloths. All of a sudden, one of these cloths (of a spiritually positive colour) accidentally fell on H.H. Bhavana Shinde’s lap. The distressing entity possessing H.H. Bhavana Shinde manifested for the first time, which prompted her to throw the positive cloth away with a lot of force.
After throwing it, she wondered why she had done so and slowly everything began to make sense. She realised that the intense bouts of anger, the different symptoms she was experiencing at the Ashram and the feelings of irritation when told to chant were all signs of spiritual distress. This was not merely a theoretical understanding anymore. She started the process of being able to identify the various facets of spiritual distress and its manifestation in her life.
She reflected, “The seekers around me are seeing what I cannot see myself.” To her, this emphasised the importance of listening to others.
10.2 Paratpar Guru Dr Athavale guiding H.H. Bhavana Shinde on how to overcome her spiritual distress
After getting to know about the entity possessing her, H.H. Bhavana Shinde thought that she will fight the distress and defeat the negative energy affecting her. To that, Paratpar Guru Dr Athavale replied saying that thinking like this is a sign of ego. Subtle sorcerers (mantriks) are extremely powerful and have done certain types of spiritual practice to acquire spiritual power for thousands of years. So, we should harbour the feeling that only God can protect me from such negative entities. This made H.H. Bhavana realise the importance of staying in the Ashram in the Holy company of Saints, seekers and the immense positivity present there, which made it easier to do spiritual practice and overcome spiritual distress. She began to listen to seekers when they reminded her to chant the Name of God, and she took chanting seriously when she returned to the USA as well. She would find pockets of time to chant, for example, when waiting for the train. She would keep track of how many chants she completed per minute and used this to estimate how much she was chanting. In this manner, she was able to complete 5-6 hours of chanting (while sitting with concentration) by the time she came back home from work. Thus, she was able to complete all the spiritual healing remedies prescribed to her.
The possessing entity (negative energy) continued to trouble H.H. Bhavana Shinde and would give her suicidal thoughts. On occasions, she would even try to harm herself; but due to her spiritual practice and God’s grace she was protected. With the help of seekers and Saints, she persevered in her spiritual practice and identified the warning flags, which showed how the negative energy would manifest in her life. These flags included speaking at length, repeating herself, doing things hastily, getting irritable with others, her voice changing, etc. Upon seeing these signs, seekers around her would remind her to chant with concentration and do spiritual healing remedies. She listened to them and diligently completed the prescribed hours of chanting.
11. Focusing more on collective spiritual practice
In 2006, while H.H. Bhavana Shinde was at the Spiritual Research Centre, Paratpar Guru Dr Athavale made seekers aware that they were focused on their own spiritual progress and not on that of others. It marked the beginning of her collective spiritual practice in the true sense. Before this, she would do collective spiritual practice primarily because she knew it was beneficial for her own spiritual progress. Now, her focus had shifted towards helping others in their spiritual practice. She would keep thinking of how the people in America could benefit from the spiritual Knowledge she was benefiting from. She would hold spiritual lectures at every given opportunity. After returning from work, she and her son would have some food and then go to the local library, where H.H. Bhavana Shinde would hold a lecture and her son would help to set up.
H.H. Bhavana Shinde with her son Afolabi, Jan 2006 at the Spiritual Research Centre, Goa, India
In August 2007, H.H. Bhavana Shinde began to get thoughts that she had crossed the level of a disciple, which means being at the 55% spiritual level or above. However, she thought that this was a manifestation of her ego and wrote these thoughts as mistakes when they came to her mind. She felt her spiritual level must be low, because when she started spiritual practice, her spiritual level was lower than that of others attending the satsang she attended.
Then, in 2008, while she was attending a satsang with Paratpar Guru Dr Athavale in the Spiritual Research Centre and Ashram, He asked H.H. Bhavana Shinde to stand in front of all seekers and asked seekers to say what her spiritual level was. Most seekers shared that her spiritual level was around 40%. Then, Paratpar Guru Dr Athavale shared that all seekers were making the same mistake of not being able to see past the black covering on H.H. Bhavana Shinde and shared that she had reached the spiritual level of 60%. He asked how H.H. Bhavana Shinde felt. She shared that she felt He was talking about someone else, and then Paratpar Guru Dr Athavale said that this proved that she had reached this spiritual level. Later, H.H. Bhavana Shinde introspected and felt that she still had different thoughts and reactions in her mind though they were few compared to before. She felt that if this was how being at the 60% spiritual level felt, she definitely wanted to reach the 100% spiritual level.
H.H. Bhavana Shinde with Paratpar Guru Dr Athavale, in 2010
12. Progressing rapidly due to making intense efforts in spiritual practice
H.H. Bhavana Shinde developed a rigorous routine when she returned to the USA. She would leave for work at 8 AM and return home by 6:30 PM. She completed 5-6 hours of concentrated chanting during this time by finding pockets of time when she could chant. This was the time she counted as her spiritual healing hours. Then, she would begin to do satseva of translating articles and helping some seekers in their spiritual practice from 8:30 PM onwards. She would continue doing satseva until 5 AM. At that point, she realised there was no point trying to sleep for one hour before work, so she would continue offering satseva until it was time to leave for work. She would follow this routine most days and sleep for 3-4 hours for 1-2 days a week. Generally, a lack of sleep makes functioning the next day difficult. However, H.H. Holiness Bhavana Shinde would experience no signs of tiredness or fatigue. She realised that the energy to sustain herself was coming from God. She continued this way for one year and it was announced after that she had grown to the spiritual level of 64%, meaning she progressed 4% in one year.
13. Keeping a focus on God in all situations
She got married for a second time in June 2010. By this time, she felt she did not want to work anymore, and instead she wanted to dedicate all her free time to doing spiritual practice. Then, a shift in her perspective took place, where it did not matter to her if she was working or not. All that mattered to her was that she dedicated as much time as possible to doing spiritual practice. She felt that her ultimate boss was God or Deity Shrikrishna. She did not make efforts to please her bosses at work, try to network or keep her job in any way. All that mattered was that she behaved in a manner so as to attain God’s grace. She felt that if God wanted her to have the job, no one could take it from her and if He wanted her to lose the job, no one could make her keep it.
When she worked with this attitude, her capacity rose. She would listen to bhajans (Holy songs) sung by His Holiness Bhaktaraj Maharaj while writing computer programs. She found that she would go into a trance-like state while debugging computer programs. And then when compiling them, she found that they were error-free. This is almost unheard of in computer programming. Her capacity increased to the point that what took others 8 hours to do, would take her just 1-2 hours to complete. Thus, she would have 6-7 hours free for doing spiritual practice.
In addition, because she was not focused on pushing herself ahead of others, she had the attitude of a team player. Due to following the PDR process, when mistakes were made, she would not blame others but rather share where she fell short. People found this disarming and found it easy to work with her. At one point, the company was being transitioned to a new vendor. The employees of the new vendor were likely to take the old employees’ jobs, but H.H. Bhavana Shinde firmly kept faith that God was her boss and that it was up to God whether she kept her job or not. Thus, she behaved pleasantly with these new employees and they found it interesting that she was helpful to them. While most of H.H. Bhavana Shinde’s colleagues lost their jobs, she not only kept her job but was asked to name whatever salary she wanted, so her salary increased significantly. This happened in November 2012.
In January 2013, she visited the Spiritual Research Centre and Ashram and there she decided to quit her job and dedicate all her time available to doing spiritual practice. Even though she had just received her first big pay cheque that December, it did not affect her as her primary focus was on God.
14. Working on manifestations of ego for further spiritual progress
H.H. Bhavana Shinde had made rapid spiritual progress from 2006-2009, but after that it took her some years to make further spiritual progress. During this time, she became increasingly aware of her ego manifestation of expectations. She studied it in detail and wrote all the ways it was manifesting. The list went on for pages. She realised she had expectations of others, self, objects, and God. For example, she would get irritated when her computer was not working fast. She identified each of her expectations and worked on them systematically through the PDR process. She would take an incident where expectations manifested in her set of Autosuggestions and change them each month. She never got tired of it and continued to work on her expectations for several years.
At one point (around 2010), when she was at the Spiritual Research Centre and Ashram, H.H. Bhavana Shinde was continually telling mistakes of others to the point where she was hurting them. She was made aware of her extroversion (focusing on where others fell short) and expectations and told that she should not tell mistakes of others for some time. Initially, she found it unfair, but upon introspecting, she became aware of how her expectations and extroversion were at play. She worked on being introverted or focusing on where she fell short, and by the end of 2013 to 2014 this quality had increased in her significantly. Along with this, her expectations had reduced to a good extent. She was able to experience the change of moving from expectations to understanding and finally to acceptance.
14.1 Traumatic incident in her life and severity of distress increasing
Additionally, around this time (January 2013), a difficult situation arose in her personal life that would have caused most to give up. However, due to the Autosuggestions she was taking on expectations, she was able to remain calm and persevere in her spiritual practice. At that time, Paratpar Guru Dr Athavale told her to stay in the ashram for as long as it was needed to recover from it. By then she had left her job, so she stayed in the Spiritual Research Centre and Ashram for 6 months. Her spiritual distress was at its peak and she was prescribed 5-8 hours of chanting with concentration, which she completed diligently without fail every day. After 6 months, when she was leaving for the USA, Paratpar Guru Dr Athavale told her, “A turning point has been reached in your battle with the negative energy affecting you, and you will see the difference in 6 months.”
14.2 Her sincere desire to obey the guidance given and making further spiritual progress
After going back to the USA, H.H. Bhavana Shinde was following the guidance which was given to her. There used to be alcohol consumption and blaring music playing in the vicinity. As her apartment was very small, the sound would be deafening. Yet, H.H. Bhavana Shinde did not give up and no matter what happened, she did not let the hours she dedicated to spiritual healing remedies drop. She used to wear earphones and listen to the chant and complete the prescribed hours of chanting with concentration. Within 6 months, due to her efforts in completing the prescribed hours of chanting, she grew from the 67% to the 69% spiritual level.
In her battle with spiritual distress, she realised that two things are very important – completing her prescribed hours of concentrated chanting and making efforts in Personality Defect Removal (PDR). This is because if one does not do chanting, one cannot do PDR due to not having enough positive spiritual energy, and without PDR, the chanting will not have a lasting effect due to the mind’s tendency of becoming unstable. Also, she realised not to hide behind her spiritual distress and use it as an excuse for her defects, but to make sincere efforts in PDR. She would maintain the perspective that having spiritual distress is one’s own doing (i.e., wrong actions committed in past lives) and she felt, ‘I am completely responsible for my distress’. The only way to overcome distress is to do spiritual practice and work on oneself.
5-Day Spiritual Retreat in India
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15. Her efforts to work on expectations and increasing introversion
H.H. Bhavana Shinde at her home in Maryland, while she was giving an Autosuggestion session
Initially H.H. Bhavana Shinde had a lot of expectations from seekers and would get reactions when they told her mistakes. She shared, “Earlier my attention would go to why, what, how, when about the accusation – all these were superfluous things which made me extroverted. Then instead of that I started seeing where I have fallen short even if I was wrong by just 10% or 1%, I still have to work on that. I realised that instead of thinking others are my enemies, in reality, it was my expectations that was the true enemy which would make me feel miserable. Understanding others is the key to overcoming expectations. The bridge between expectations and acceptance is understanding. But to cross that bridge one needs introversion. I used to write mistakes with a deep sense of introversion and would feel remorse about them. Also, whenever I was writing in my PDR diary, I used to mention the impact my expectations had on others. This made me realise how I was hurting seekers. I was taking Autosuggestions (AS) with introversion, because I knew that if I was not introverted about my mistakes, then my mind would not follow the suggestion given in the AS.”
16. Reaching Sainthood
In September 2014, H.H. Bhavana Shinde started getting thoughts that she had reached Sainthood. The last time when she got such thoughts, she was at the spiritual level of a disciple. At that time, Paratpar Guru Dr Athavale had said she should have shared these thoughts to get them checked. So, H.H. Bhavana Shinde shared her thought with Sadguru Cyriaque Vallee, who received guidance to tell her not to think about it.
In December 2014, she returned to the Spiritual Research Centre and Ashram. A few days later, on 3 January 2015, it was declared that H.H. Bhavana Shinde had reached Sainthood in a blissful ceremony.
Ms Lola Vezilić felicitating H.H. Bhavana Shinde
While it did not come as a surprise to her due to the thoughts she was getting over the past few months, it did come with an immense sense of gratitude for all what Paratpar Guru Dr Athavale had done for her. She felt that the amount of spiritual practice she did was nowhere near that done by great Saints of India, yet she had still been elevated to the level of Sainthood due to God’s grace. This ceremony only reaffirmed her desire for spiritual growth and renewed her commitment to merge with God.
Bhavana Shinde at the ceremony where she was declared a Saint
H.H. Bhavana Shinde feels that even after reaching the stage of Sainthood, it is better to keep the attitude that one is a seeker of God, as there is so much Bliss in that state. Serving others is a blissful experience and she has learnt this from Paratpar Guru Dr Athavale, who is Himself an embodiment of service to humanity. Out of this gratitude for her Guru, H.H. Bhavana Shinde continues to serve seekers day and night.
H.H. Bhavana Shinde saying namaskar to all seekers after the attaining Sainthood
H.H. Bhavana Shinde went through various external and internal hardships along her spiritual journey. She has been moulded by each situation, whether distressing or pleasant. She even finds that the spiritual distress that she was afflicted with for so many years has helped her to understand and empathise with others suffering from spiritual distress. As a result, she is better able to help them to fight to overcome their spiritual distress. Whether it is a struggle with spiritual distress or with the ego, H.H. Bhavana Shinde can empathise with seekers going through the same battle because she has gone through them herself and hence is able to give practical solutions to their problems.
16.1 Anecdote from H.H. Bhavana Shinde’s spiritual journey that instilled faith in her
H.H. Bhavana (Left) with Paratpar Guru Dr Athavale (Right)
One incident really instilled faith in H.H. Bhavana Shinde during her spiritual journey and she wanted to share this with everyone.
In 1999, which was around the time she began her spiritual practice, H.H. Bhavana Shinde got angry with her mother and misbehaved with her. At the time, Sharon, who was her guiding seeker, asked Paratpar Guru Dr Athavale some questions on behalf of H.H. Bhavana Shinde. She asked :
- what percentage of this incident occurred due to destiny,
- what percentage did distress contribute,
- what percentage was due to H.H. Bhavana Shinde’s mistake,
- what percentage was due to her mother’s mistake and finally,
- would she still reach God after making such a mistake?
She got back the answer that there was no contribution of destiny or distress in the mistake, so it occurred due to H.H. Bhavana Shinde’s wilful action. The mistake was 80% H.H. Bhavana Shinde’s and 20% due to her mother. However, the answer to the last question was “YES” in capital letters. This “YES”, was something that H.H. Bhavana Shinde clung onto as an assurance from her Guru that she will progress in her spiritual journey. In times of difficulty and otherwise, she always remembered this incident and would persevere in her spiritual practice.
17. Her current responsibilities
H.H. Bhavana Shinde conducting a spiritual workshop
H.H. Bhavana Shinde giving a radio interview
Presently, H.H. Bhavana Shinde is guiding people and seekers from all over the world in their individual and collective spiritual practice. Along with Sadguru Cyriaque Vallee, she looks after all the activities of the Spiritual Science Research Foundation worldwide.
H.H. Bhavana Shinde on her birthday in 2020
H.H. Bhavana Shinde is a living example of this above statement.