Reflections on Gurumayi Chidvilasananda

Learning by Heart by Raghu Butler

For the past twelve years I have participated in a Siddha Yoga sadhana circle that meets each week in Oakland, California. We study the Gurus’ teachings and the Indian scriptures. One morning a few years ago, while we were studying one of Gurumayi’s books, I was particularly struck by a certain passage. I thought to myself, “I should memorize that!” My idea was that later I could bring the teaching forth to contemplate it more deeply.

Memorization does not come easily for me, but within a few days I had established the passage, more than one hundred words, in my mind. Immediately, I received a bonus I did not expect. I felt a powerful new connection to Gurumayi—and to my innermost Self. What had happened?

I have heard, many times, the Siddha Yoga teaching that the Guru’s words are chaitanya, filled with Consciousness, and that each word has the power of mantra. I understood that by repeating Gurumayi’s words over and over again to memorize them, I had been practicing a form of mantra japa. And like the practice of mantra japa, repetition of the Guru’s pure words had carried my awareness inside to the deepest part of my being.

With this understanding I began to repeat the memorized passage regularly. I discovered that I had a fully portable treasure that could uplift my consciousness and open up new horizons right in the midst of my daily life. I offer seva as Department Head of Facilities in the Siddha Yoga Ashram in Oakland. This is a fast-paced role, filled with timely situations and unexpected events. Sometimes I simply pause in the midst of an activity and walk around the block while reciting Gurumayi’s words—out loud if no one is around, to myself if others are in the vicinity. This creates an oasis in the midst of busyness. I may even recite the memorized passage a dozen times, similar to practicing svadhyaya, as I go about my duties. The recitation helps restore balance and harmony in my mind and breath, and it encourages me to keep a calm perspective. I think of the recitation of her words as something Gurumayi and I do together. A rhythm starts to appear as I repeat the words. I hear Gurumayi’s voice speak a line and then hear myself reflexively say a resounding “Yes!” With every line, it is Gurumayi and me—together—expanding my consciousness, word by word, breath by breath.

The practice works wondrously as a preparation for gliding into meditation. It also works well on nights when a busy mind keeps me from sleeping. Instead of worrying about whether a particular plumbing component will arrive on time, I repeat Gurumayi’s beautiful words. As I do, I feel as if she is speaking straight into my heart. I rest in Gurumayi’s words, and sleep comes easily.

I notice that this practice also benefits my relationships with people. The other day I was driving with a co-worker; as we talked, I could see that we had different opinions about a project and, more important, were both identifying strongly with our opinions. So for a while, I spoke less and began to silently repeat Gurumayi’s words to myself.

As we drove along, I felt myself slip into a higher perspective and began to revel in the kindness and clarity of the words I was hearing inside. When I spoke again, my own words carried some of Gurumayi’s kindness and clarity. Soon my colleague and I were speaking amicably and sensibly.

I feel tenderness toward these words of Gurumayi’s that I now know so well—and a new tenderness in myself as they become integrated into my being.

And I have great gratitude to Gurumayi for making her words so readily available—through her books, the Siddha Yoga path website, multi-media recordings—giving all of us the opportunity, in multiple languages, to take refuge in their purity.

 

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