In Step with the Heavenly Beat

An Account of Gurumayi’s Birthday Celebration

Shree Muktananda Ashram
June 23 – 24, 2015

Part IV

Graceful Worship

While the auspicious rain continued to fall softly, Gurumayi indicated to the flutist that he now had the floor. After a few moments, Gurumayi stood up from her seat and approached Bade Baba’s murti, as the notes of the slow, sweet melody from the flute suffused the Temple.

With great care, Gurumayi chose gardenias from a tray of flower offerings and placed them one by one on Bade Baba’s feet and hands, then all around the murti. As I watched Gurumayi worship her Guru’s Guru in this way, I performed manasa puja—mental worship—making the same offerings to Shri Guru myself. Profound feelings of devotion arose in my heart; I felt awash in love, absorbed in Shri Guru puja.

Gurumayi called Prasad to come forward. He walked toward the dais and stood respectfully before Gurumayi. Gurumayi gave him two gardenia flowers, saying, “For showing us the heavens—one from Bade Baba and one from me.”

Prasad received these gardenias in his cupped hands, his face shining with love. Watching the way Gurumayi placed these flowers in Prasad’s hands and the reverence with which he held them, we all felt as if we too were receiving Gurumayi’s blessings.
Gurumayi then lifted a beautiful garland of white orchids from the flower offerings tray. Gurumayi stepped on the footstool and went to gently place the garland around Bade Baba’s neck. A participant assisted to ensure that the garland on Bade Baba’s left side was parallel with the right side. Bade Baba looked even more magnificent.

Another participant brought a tray holding three coconuts.

As an Indian, I learned at an early age that coconuts hold great significance. From a spiritual perspective, the rough, hard outer shell of the coconut represents the unrefined ego; the inner part is soft and sweet, representing the divine Self. When we offer a coconut during puja, we are symbolically surrendering our ego at the Guru’s feet and praying to experience the nectar of the Self. Breaking the coconut signifies releasing the inner nectar, the sweetness of the heart.

Throughout India the coconut tree is held in very high regard. In some parts of the country the coconut tree is called kalpavriksha, the “wish-fulfilling tree,” because every part of the tree has many beneficial uses. For example, the coconut itself provides highly nutritious food, water, and oil; the roots of the tree have medicinal value; the trunk and fronds are used in building houses and shelters; and the fibers are used for many purposes, such as clothing, fuel, paper, baskets, and brooms.

Given that the coconut plant provides for us so abundantly, it’s no wonder that the coconut is considered dear to Mahalakshmi, the goddess of abundance. It is called shriphala—the divine fruit from the heavens.

Gurumayi anointed the coconuts in the traditional manner with fragrant oil, kumkum (red powder), and turmeric. She then turned toward Bade Baba while holding one of the coconuts that had been consecrated. Gurumayi closed her eyes for a few moments, then gently placed the coconut by Bade Baba’s right foot as an offering.

After this puja, Gurumayi asked one of the participants to take a coconut to the murti of Lord Ganesh in the garden and break it there as an offering in the east. Gurumayi handed a coconut to another participant and asked him to wave it outside to the sun in the west, and then break it in that direction.

Watching Gurumayi perform this graceful worship, I felt the sweetest nectar of love being released in my own heart. I thought about how, as the sun had moved from east to west across the sky today, more and more of Gurumayi’s devotees in different parts of the world were greeting the morning with singing hearts in celebration of Gurumayi’s Birthday.

Gurumayi performed pranam, and then pradakshina to Bade Baba’s murti. I was enthralled by the circular rhythms of the puja: the garland of flowers encircling Bade Baba’s golden neck, the gentle waving of the coconut, the sacred circle of pradakshina. Through the movement in these ancient rituals I was drawn to a point of stillness deep within. Gurumayi’s Message for this year became alive for me again in that moment:

At the conclusion of pradakshina, Gurumayi stood before the silver padukas. She began performing paduka puja, worship of the Guru’s sandals. As Gurumayi anointed the padukas with sandalwood paste, kumkum, rice, and khus, a fragrant oil, Gurumayi invited everyone to recite Shri Guru Paduka Panchakam, “Five Stanzas on the Sandals of Shri Guru.”

During the recitation, Gurumayi asked my thirteen-year old daughter and another participant to apply a drop of khus oil to the back of each participant’s right hand. I was filled with joy as I watched my daughter serving Gurumayi with eagerness and reverence. When I received the oil on my hand, I breathed in deeply, inhaling this divine fragrance. To me, the scent of khus always evokes Gurudev Siddha Peeth—and the daily rhythm of practices and rituals performed in this sacred abode, eternally in step with the heavenly beat.

As the puja continued, Gurumayi placed one gardenia after another on the padukas, until the Guru’s sandals were completely covered in white flowers. The exquisite arrangement of gardenias made me think of Mount Meru, the sacred, snow-covered mountain that the Indian scriptures describe as the center of the cosmos and the dwelling place of the gods.

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