March 1, 2018
Remember how January 1st was ushered in by the full moon—and a supermoon at that? Under its pearlescent glow we received Gurumayi's Message for 2018, a Message which enchants us to no end, which impels us in our spiritual practices. Now, as we anticipate all that lies ahead for us in March, a new cycle in nature and in our sadhana is being heralded by yet another full moon—the full moon of Holi Purnima. It is a joy to connect with you on this day that is so symbolic of springtime, and that calls forth celebration in myriad color. (I really am so happy that you're reading this. Please do stay with me through the rest of our satsang.)
There's a memory I have from when I was quite young, one that's remained etched in my mind ever since. (You'll see what I mean in a moment.) Have you ever watched someone roll out a piece of dough—to make chapati, for example, or a pie, or sheets of pasta? Well, it can be quite a mesmerizing sight. As a child I would stand on a stool over the kitchen counter and watch, enrapt, as my mother would roll out one chapati after another. Under her practiced hand and the steady pressure of her rolling pin, the dough would stretch and then shrink a little, stretch some more and shrink a little again. Sometimes my mom would tug at the ends of the dough, or dab it with oil, or sprinkle it with flour, or else rotate it to make sure it was of even thickness. Making chapati was second nature for her, something she didn’t even necessarily think about. Still, by watching her, by observing the deftness of her hands and how she continually detected and responded to what was happening before her, I learned something about effort. How much value there was, I realized—how much effectiveness—in effort that was marked by careful attention, by sensitivity, by a certain intuitive intelligence.
This image, simple though it may be, keeps coming to my mind as we enter March. As I mentioned earlier, this month marks a new season in our practice of Gurumayi's Message for 2018: . Satsang. The webcast of A Sweet Surprise on the Siddha Yoga path website concluded just yesterday. We can approach today, therefore, and the coming days and weeks, as an opportunity to take forward what we have learned from participating in A Sweet Surprise over the past two months. We can assess and reassess how best to fulfill the resolution Gurumayi gave us in her Message talk. We can re-look at the effort we are putting forth to create our own satsang wherever we are and whenever we wish to.
In the letter for last month, I wrote about how the Truth is everywhere and in everything, and how it’s also incredibly subtle. It’s like light scattered through fog—present, shining, and elusive. Much as you might want to learn more about that misty light and come closer to it, you know better than to try and stopper it in a bottle. A cleverer, more nuanced approach is needed.
Similarly, the effort you make to perceive the Truth must have a quality of subtlety to it. This is why Gurumayi’s Message—why satsang—is so important. Satsang is an act that requires remarkable subtlety, particularly of the intellect. To be in the company of the Truth, and to continually return to that company, you must have a refined understanding of yourself. You must have at least an inkling of what it feels like to be in your own heart, and be able to discern which thoughts, which words, and which actions lead you there, and which ones take you away. And you must then act accordingly. For satsang is no passive activity. It is an active, continually calibrated engagement with what you know to be real in the innermost chambers of your being.
If this seems like a tall order—if you’re suddenly not sure that you know what it means to be in your own heart, or how you’d go about recreating that experience—let me assure you that, for one, you can definitely do it. Second, there are concrete steps you can take. For example, you might recall a moment when it felt like you were in communion with something greater than yourself; it could be a moment from this week, or last year, or from when you were a small child and you looked up in wonder at the night sky, curious about what might happen if you pulled back that blanket of star-strewn velvet. Or… you could remember an experience of participating in a Siddha Yoga satsang, the very purpose of which is to gather together out of love for God, to sing the glory of God, to meditate and find the God who resides within you.
Then, as you go about your days, try and observe in which moments you have traces of that experience. Perhaps you are walking your dog just after dawn—the air is crisp and sunlight is glinting through the trees—and suddenly, you perceive in that early morning quiet the stillness of meditation. And once you return home, who knows? You might feel the urge to meditate for a few minutes, just to be sure that, yes, those experiences were one and the same—and so that next time, you’re better able to recognize the congruence. This is part of what it means for satsang to be a dynamic engagement with your own Self. The spiritual practices are essential for acquiring greater subtlety of intellect, for refining your perception.
To help you further hone in on what satsang is for you, I encourage you to articulate your experience, and to do so with more and more precision. It does not matter if you think you are a writer or not; if you’ve had the experience, the words will follow. And if you believe there’s no way you can possibly describe the experience, it being so immense and indescribable and surpassing language—then let me share a story with you.
A few months ago, I was speaking with Gurumayi about this very quagmire, the paradox of describing that which was beyond description. I shared with Gurumayi how, given their ambiguity, phrases like “it is indescribable” or “it is beyond words” were never quite satisfactory to me—and yet many of the experiences we have on the spiritual path are, in fact, difficult to encompass in words! Gurumayi looked at me for a moment, her eyes tender. Then she said, “This is why we ask people to share one gem.”
So if you feel you can’t describe the varied and expansive terrain of satsang, focus on one gem, one facet of your experience. Like your first impression of receiving Gurumayi’s Message, it will be something that you can always return to, that will serve as your rudder as you continually navigate back to the Truth within you.
The Mundaka Upanishad says,
The great and luminous Atman is of inconceivable nature. It is subtler than the subtlest, farther than the farthest. It is here, within us, and the seers find it abiding within the cave of the Heart.1
There is such comfort in these words, in this ageless wisdom which at once acknowledges that the Truth is subtle, beyond conception, and affirms that it is capable of being known. Yes you can bridge this paradox and perceive what defies perception. The solution is in this verse, unspoken but vibrantly present: it is your effort.
This month, therefore, I urge you to take an even closer look at the nature of the effort required of you. Make that effort. The more you do, the subtler and sharper your intellect will become; the more readily you will discern when you’re experiencing satsang and when you’re not. And you will realize, for all its accessibility, just how exalted satsang truly is.
Because you see, satsang is not merely good company or warm feeling; it is not the satisfaction you get after a hearty meal or the pleasure derived from playing a fun game. Satsang is something greater, something grander, something far more powerful. It is the fruit of your careful and well-placed effort; it is the gift of the Guru’s unending grace; it is a glimpse of the great and luminous Atman; it is the company of the Truth.