The Miracle

6 min read

The gathering of devotees was waiting in the early morning sun. They have been waiting for over five hours, some of them arriving around mid-night to secure a place in the front row.

Three rows of large shady trees surround the amphitheater. Some of the people on the eastern side were in the shade of these trees, but the others in the sun did not appear to mind.

They were of all walks of life, of all ages, from a few weeks old infants in their mothers' arms to the aged, leaning on sticks, relatives and friends. Some appeared to be very sick and feeble while there were also young men and women in best of health and vigour. They had come from many parts of the world, as was apparent from their skin colour, facial features, their hair and the babble of languages spoken softly.

At such a varied gathering, it would be normally expected that the people would be restless, moving about and the noise level would also be very high with so much chatter, but here there was hardly any noise as people were talking in whispers and they were not moving about.

They were all anxiously waiting for someone or something to happen and their eyes moved constantly towards the archway at the northern entrance, through which they could see a tree lined path.

A teenage girl was waiting, in her wheel chair, in the front row. She had arrived the previous night with her parents to make sure that she could be in the front row. They had come to Ananthnandi two weeks ago and waited at the amphitheater each morning to see the Saadhu. They had seen him, sometimes from a few rows away, sometimes closer, but the Saadhu had not seen her.

The girl did not give up. She knew that the Saadhu would see her. Her father had got tired of the daily visit to the temple, and the look of disappointment on his daughters face.

Every day at lunch at the hotel he would suggest that they should leave. The girl would start crying and the mother would look sternly at her husband and they would decide to wait for one more day. Her father did not mind the huge hotel bill they were running up, he did not mind been away from his business for so many days, he did not mind eating vegetarian food for breakfast, lunch and dinner. He did not miss his daily drink at the club. But he did not want to see his daughters face when the Saadhu left the amphitheater without a glance at her.

All they could do in the afternoon was sleep. In the evenings, after a few days they had visited all the restaurants in the town. They had early dinner and retired early, to leave for the temple in the morning. Every morning, they had left the hotel one hour earlier than on the previous day, but still they could not find a place where she could be in the Saadhu's path.

In the end, the girl insisted that they spend the whole night at the grounds. They came prepared with food, tea and warm cloths, even though they could have received all the food and drink they needed, from the free self service counters. They found that others had the same idea, but they did not mind, because their daughter now occupied a place in the front row near the entrance to the temple.

The girl was prepared to sit in her wheel chair the whole night. Her father spread a blanket on the ground and rolled himself in it. Her mother sat on the step next to the wheel chair for as long as she could and in the early hours of the morning curled up at her daughters feet.

The whole night long, the girl prayed. She prayed to Jesus Christ, to Buddha, to Allah, to Vishnu, to Siva, to Avalokiteshvara Bodhisttva and to the Saadhu.

She promised that she would serve at the temple for the rest of her life, if only she could walk once again. She did not see the changes in the night sky as the stars moved above her, as the clouds sped past them. She did not hear the night birds flying around the trees, or the street noises far away. She did not even hear her father's snoring.

All the time more devotees were entering the grounds, and finding the best places available. By the time dawn was breaking, the amphitheater was filled to capacity. Those who had been sleeping were up. The girl's mother opened a can of water and washed her face and helped her arrange her hair and clothes.

People got restless as the time for the appearance grew closer.

Sharp at 9.48, at the end of the Rahu period, the gate opened.

The Saadhu appeared in the doorway. He looked around and started moving towards them, slowly, with his hands raised to bless them. He appeared to be floating a few inches above ground, rather than walking. The girls eyes, like thousands of others, followed the Saadhu. The Saadhu came directly to the place where the girl was waiting and stopped before her.

He indicated to her that she should get up and come up to him. The girl could not take her eyes off him and gripped the arms of the wheel chair till her fingers hurt. She could not look at her mother or father. She could not ask them what she should do.

The Saadhu waited, with hands stretched towards her, waiting for her. The girl put all her strength into her hands and tried to lift herself on the chair. Suddenly she could feel life flowing into her legs and part of the weight of her body passing onto her feet. She felt her toes move and the calf muscles tighten. She felt her feet move from the foot rest and slowly drop to the ground. Her legs had taken on her full weight and she straightened up, letting go of the arms of the wheel chair.

She stood up, unsupported, her eyes, not moving from the Sadhus face. Her right foot lifted and moved a few inches forward and her weight was transferred on to it, as she lifted her left foot. By inches she moved forward, unsteady at first, but gaining confidence as she came closer to the Saadhu.

The girl walked up to the Saadhu and knelt at his feet, to touch her forehead to his toes. He blessed her and moved away. The girl stood up, more steadily this time, and followed him.

Her parents watched, paralyzed in reverence and disbelief, watching her daughter walk as gracefully as she used to, twenty four months ago, before her near fatal accident. They did not realize that she was walking away from their lives, perhaps forever.

© Daya Dissanayake 2022 Contact