June 1, 2018
Perhaps you’ve noticed—the sky has a way of turning pink as we approach June, as if coral pigment had been dipped into an otherwise translucent pool of blue. You see it at sunrise or sunset, how the color swivels out and around, encircling us on all sides—yet instead of becoming diffuse, it somehow grows more saturated, more vividly present. I wonder sometimes if even the vast canvas over our heads is big enough to hold such blooming color, to host such a paroxysm of joy. And then I figure that even the sky can’t contain itself at this time of year. It is, after all, the month of celebration; it is the month of the janmadin, of our beloved Gurumayi’s birthday.
Happy, happy Birthday Bliss!
As we begin our celebrations and prepare for the great day, the janmadin, on June 24, I find myself mulling over certain questions. For example, what is it that makes water wet? That gives silk its softness, a rose its fragrance, the color red its characteristic vibrancy? What is the stillness at the center of the most buoyant happiness, the silence and space you find at the heart of any deep emotion—even the tough ones, if you float down into them far enough?
I’ve learned that it can be very useful to pose these kinds of questions. They help me feel my way toward understanding, toward articulating more precisely, what it is that Gurumayi’s presence, her teachings, her grace have meant for this world—and what they have meant to me, in my own life. The truth is, there is so much to say. There are infinite poems to dream up, endless miles of ecstatic prose I could let flow from my pen. For now, though, I’ll say this much. Because of Gurumayi—because I, like so many of you, have the incredible kismet to call her my Guru—I have become more able to perceive the essence of something real.
Gurumayi gave us the term satyarasa in her Message talk for this year. Satyarasa refers not simply to the Truth, but to the ambrosia, the flavor and character of that Truth. And it is such a perfect way—is it not?—to describe what Gurumayi teaches us to recognize and bring forth in our lives. Satyarasa calls to mind something pure, pristine, and also richly textured; something crystal clear yet also phenomenally lush, not unlike the sky in June. The word itself makes clear that satyarasa is not merely to be surveyed and studied and understood from a distance. No—it is to be enjoyed, delighted in with the full faculty of our inner senses, and cascaded out to others.
A couple of months ago, I was walking into the Lower Lobby of the Anugraha building in Shree Muktananda Ashram. It was late afternoon, the sky was bright and clear, and light was streaming in through the windows. As I entered, I saw Gurumayi standing on one side of the lobby, where various plants and flowers were lined up alongside each other. There was a sevite with Gurumayi who was moving some of the plants around.
Gurumayi smiled at me as I approached and said, “We’re creating a little paradise.”
A delicate stand, made of thin wrought iron by the looks of it, had been placed near the plants, along with some small tables. The sevite was putting the different plants on and around these surfaces, presumably to create a scene that would be pleasing to the eye. I began to help, and soon other sevites arrived. Together we shifted the plants this way and that, picking up stray leaves, tilting our heads every few minutes to survey the arrangement, and then readjusting as needed. Gurumayi stood near us, guiding our efforts, indicating where we might want to place this plant or that plant. Again she said, “We’re creating a little paradise.”
When we finished, we stepped back to look at our creation. Where before the plants had been spread out all along the windows, they were now grouped together appealingly in one area; we’d fashioned a small garden nook, a leafy green oasis, right there in that part of the lobby. The movement and personality of the plants were suddenly, somehow, more evident. I found myself noticing how boldly crimson the leaves on one of the plants were, and the gentle slope in the branches of the gardenia tree. The combined fragrance of all these plants was something special as well—intoxicating, really, and perceptible in a way it had not been just moments before. It wafted over us in waves.
This experience has stayed with me, illustrative as it is. All of the plants had been in the lobby already; the stands and table, too, had been brought from nearby. Yet with Gurumayi’s guidance, and with a little bit of effort—some lifting, some shifting, some assessing and adjusting—we produced from those materials a space of striking beauty and fragrance, a space where it felt like that invisible gold lining on our world could peek out into the open and bring a bit more joy to those who passed by. Later I realized: Isn’t this what Gurumayi is always teaching? That for each one of us, no matter our circumstances, a little paradise—a little satyarasa—is always within our reach.
As we reflect on all we have to celebrate this month, it is also prudent to ask ourselves: How can we best celebrate our Guru? What is the best way to honor Gurumayi on the occasion of her birthday, to acknowledge the significance of her taking birth on this planet, to even begin to express our gratitude for all the ways her grace wends through our lives, all the ways her teachings support us to be better, kinder, stronger, more loving people?
I’m not sure I have an answer to these questions exactly, at least not one that can be packaged neatly and generalized to everyone reading this. The answer may just be for each one of us to figure out for ourselves.
Still, I have a thought. What if we honor Gurumayi by making good on what she has given us, by practicing her teachings, which she has imparted for no other reason than our own benefit and the benefit of the world we live in? It is our responsibility, after all, as students and as disciples—and it is our good fortune—to cultivate and sustain what she has made possible for us.
In this month, therefore, I urge you to continue to work with Gurumayi’s Message for 2018. Practice Satsang, and with renewed faith, diligence, and discernment, endeavor to tap into the great well of satyarasa that exists within you. One concept from Gurumayi’s Message talk that may be especially intriguing to explore at this time is what it means to have satsang by focusing on your own good company.
Up to this point, many of you will have practiced this teaching when you were, in fact, on your own—it was just you, and perhaps the blue-pink expanse above, and you learned a little more about what it is like to be with yourself. That is fantastic, and truly speaking, that is all you need to have satsang. But how does that concept relate to satsang as it has traditionally been practiced through the ages, and as many of you will surely be practicing it this month when you convene in Siddha Yoga Ashrams and meditation centers to celebrate Gurumayi’s Birthday? How does it relate to satsang as a gathering of seekers coming together in worship?
One of the many incredible things about Gurumayi’s Message for this year is that in addition to giving us a new and more accessible approach to satsang, it encourages us to reexamine how we practice the classical configuration of satsang. Satsang in any form, whether you practice it by yourself or with others, is about seeking and being in the company of the Truth. The question is: where does that Truth reside? No doubt that when you are with fellow seekers, you enjoy being with them, learning from their wisdom, and doing the spiritual practices together. What defines such activity as satsang, however, and not some other type of gathering, is that its purpose is to aid you in coming into greater communion with your own Self. It’s like meditating before the sun, Surya Devata. The outer supports the inner; in time, the inner blends into the outer. A gentle effort, a particular kind of self-awareness, is requisite.
So the practice of satsang—on your own, with others, and with even greater intentionality—will be a key part of how you can celebrate Gurumayi’s Birthday in 2018. And each day of this month, the Siddha Yoga path website will support you in this practice. Each day will bring new means for you to get in touch with your own heart.
Like today—have you read what else is on the website? Or maybe it would be more accurate to ask if you have experienced what is here; if you have listened to its rhythms and breathed in the cadence; if you have taken to heart the teaching woven through the words, understanding that when you do so, you can shift your very way of being and doing. I’m referring, of course, to the exquisite poem Gurumayi wrote for us, Waiting for That Perfect Moment.
And there’s much to come, as well, over the next many days and weeks. The website will feature new stories about Gurumayi, Reflections on Gurumayi, commentaries on the sadguna, the virtues, she has chosen for all the days of June. There will be an exposition on naivedya, the sacred offering of food we make to Gurumayi on her birthday; and a visual dharana, inspired by Gurumayi’s Message, to lead you into meditation.
As for what to anticipate on and around the birthday itself, June 24—which I suspect some of you are quite eager to know—well, for that, you’ll just have to stay tuned. ☺ Keep visiting the Siddha Yoga path website.
There is a sweet irony we are coming to here, a paradox of sorts. Here we are, seeking to honor hamari Gurumayi, as we’d say in Hindi—our Gurumayi. Here we are, eager to celebrate her, to sing in praise of her, to wish for her a million and one good things on her birthday. Yet for all that we want to offer, all that we wish to do and give, it is we who receive so much. I often think about why Gurumayi gave this month the name “Birthday Bliss”—so that by continually saying and hearing the word bliss, we evoke for ourselves the experience of bliss. And I understand more clearly: Birthday Bliss is, at its core, an expression of Gurumayi’s compassion. It is born of her generosity.
There is a beautiful bhajan, written by the poet-saint Kabir, which Gurumayi has sung many times over the years. Its refrain comes to my mind now.
O dear one, how I love my Sadguru,
who over and again fills the cup of Truth to the brim.
This cup, the very one my Sadguru drinks from,
my Guru gives to me.1