Birthday Bliss 2014

Reflections on Gurumayi Chidvilasananda

A Moment of Grace

Ever since I was a young teenager I have been inspired to lead a spiritual life and to seek the experience of God within. Today, I am an interfaith minister living in Montreal, Canada.

My connection with Gurumayi began in the fall of 1982 after a series of fortuitous events led me to the Siddha Yoga Meditation Center in Montreal. At that time I was a Franciscan monk living in a friary. For many years I had been longing to be near and to learn from a living Master. It was my great fortune to eventually meet such a Master in Gurumayi.

One of the teachings from the Siddha Yoga path that I cherish, and that has deepened my connection to Gurumayi over the years, is that through our devotion to God and the Guru, we draw grace into our lives. And it is grace that continually deepens our understanding of ourselves and further strengthens our connection to God. Through my relationship with Gurumayi this teaching has come alive for me and supported me in many ways.

One grace-filled moment during Gurumayi’s Teaching Visit to Montreal in the spring of 1985 continues to be central to my spiritual life. I felt so blessed to have Gurumayi visit my city. I remembered reading how Baba loved to visit churches on his visits to the West. One day as I was attending mass in the Notre-Dame Basilica of Montreal, the thought came to me, "How wonderful it would be if Gurumayi could visit this church." It is a cathedral dedicated to Mary, Mother of God, and it is one of the most beautiful churches in North America.

One evening when Gurumayi was giving darshan in a satsang, I asked her if she would like to visit one of our most beautiful churches. Gurumayi asked me, “Which one?”

I said, “Notre-Dame,” and she replied, “Yes!” I felt as though my invitation had created an opening for Gurumayi’s abundant grace.

And so it was arranged. At 10 a.m. on the morning of June 14, I was in front of the cathedral awaiting Gurumayi’s arrival. There was so much excitement in the air that day! As I stood, ready to greet Gurumayi, the leader of the Siddha Yoga Meditation Center in Montreal came to me and said, “Brother Rolph, I asked the priest if he would ring the cathedral bells when Gurumayi arrives, but he declined. Can you try asking him?” I told him that I was sorry but I could not leave my post. I had invited Gurumayi to visit the cathedral and I knew I should be there to welcome her when she arrived.

Shortly afterwards the car bringing Gurumayi drove up, and I opened the door for her. As Gurumayi stepped out, the cathedral bells suddenly began to ring! It was so beautiful! Pointing to the bell tower, I said, “Gurumayi, these bells are ringing for you!” Gurumayi gave me a very loving smile. A photographer took a picture of this moment and now, even as I write, I can see it on the wall beside my computer.

Later that day the priest told me that after he had declined to ring the bells, he had prayed to God about the matter, and received the response within that he should ring them.

Today as I look at the photograph of that moment, I give it the name “A Moment of Grace.” In such moments when the student’s love and devotion to the Guru are pure, when one is completely open to what the Guru gives, grace flows and one experiences a deeper connection to God. Everything seems perfectly aligned both inwardly and outwardly and moves with beautiful synchrony.

That evening during the satsang, Gurumayi spoke about the beautiful churches we have in Montreal, and encouraged us all to visit them and sing praises to God. When I went for darshan, Gurumayi placed a japa mala ring on my finger—an outward manifestation of the inner connection I was experiencing.

Several years later on Gurumayi’s birthday, I wrote to her, sharing my memories of her visit to Montreal and thanking her for the grace of those precious moments. In the letter I expressed my gratitude and devotion. I received an answer from Gurumayi saying, “Devotion brings grace!” May I be so blessed as to remember this teaching always.


About the Author

Rolph Fernandes began his Siddha Yoga practice in 1982 in Montreal. He has offered seva in the kitchen and gardens at Shree Muktananda Ashram and as a satsang host at the Siddha Yoga Meditation Center in Montreal. A former Franciscan monk, Brother Rolph was the Franciscans’ interfaith representative in Canada for ten years, until 1999. He is currently an interfaith minister in Montreal. He studied at the All Faiths Seminary International in New York and was ordained at the Church of the Epiphany, also in New York.


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As I read this Reflection, I felt my trust again flowing toward the heart. All the muscles of my body began to relax and merge toward my heart. Sometimes such an experience starts with a thought, a reminder. I read Gurumayi's words, "Devotion brings Grace," and the rest of the mind and body responds. As one who is perpetually trying to learn to trust the shakti, I am grateful for any reminders.

This share—and the wisdom flowing daily from this website—demonstrate how easy Gurumayi has made it to experience her darshan from wherever we are in the world.

Thank you, Gurumayi.

a Siddha Yogi from New York, USA

Thank you for sharing this moment of grace. It became a moment of grace for me, too. Montreal is my favorite city, and I felt that I was there with Gurumayi and Brother Rolph.

These days, I realize more and more that this website is a meeting place of so many beautiful beings. I like to read what people around the world are saying through their Reflections and shares.

The website is filled with grace! Each day, there are new surprises, new Reflections, new gifts. We are so lucky!

a Siddha Yogi from Embrun, Canada

As I read Brother Rolph’s Reflection on Gurumayi, I felt very grateful to the priest who, after first saying “no,” went to pray and received the response, "yes." For many reasons, this is truly a beautiful story.

a Siddha Yogi from Mexico City, Mexico

I was so happy to read Brother Rolph's share. I have visited Montreal many times, and each time I also visit the Notre-Dame Basilica there. I had never heard the story of Gurumayi visiting Montreal, or the story of her visit to the beautiful cathedral. I will cherish my visits there even more, knowing that my Guru has walked the same steps.

a Siddha Yogi from Guelph, Canada

As I read the part about the bells ringing, it immediately reminded me of something I read a while back, which said that where there is great love, there are also miracles. As I read about the priest's prayer to God, it reminded me that when we come from the heart, only the best manifests. Grace shines. The initial request came from the heart, and even if the initial response was no, the deep love definitely had an impact. Because Gurumayi is for me an embodiment of love, I thought, “Of course, the bells will ring for her.”

Having lived in Montreal for nine years, I was reminded by this Reflection of how wonderful the sound of the ringing bells is. It took me back to my own experience of hearing the bells for the first time.

Thank you, Brother Rolph, for this beautiful Reflection. Thank you, Gurumayi, for your constant grace and love.

a Siddha Yogi from Vancouver, Canada

Brother Rolph, thank you for sharing your beautiful experience. I felt I was there with you all. I was reminded of the video of Gurumayi's Maha Yatra in Europe, which I have seen several times. Each time, seeing Gurumayi visiting the churches, lighting a candle, and kneeling down touched my heart so deeply that I too made a gesture of pranam while watching the video.

Each Reflection on the website is so moving. Thanks to you all!

a Siddha Yogi from Nairobi, Kenya

Oh, this story delighted me so! I'm sitting here alone in my home, and so very alive and happy in my heart. It reminded me of how, just by turning towards the Self and remembering my constant love and devotion to the Guru, I find everything is contained there.

Thank you for this splendid reminder.

a Siddha Yogi from California, USA

I loved this story. I was raised Catholic, and any time I hear about Gurumayi visiting a church it is as if my two worlds come together. I am reminded of the universality of God.  When I go to church I always repeat the mantra. It just makes sense. My faith in my tradition is strong—and stronger still because of Gurumayi’s grace.

Let the bells ring! 

Happy Birthday, Gurumayi.

a Siddha Yogi from Minnesota, USA

I offered seva on Gurumayi’s teaching visit to Montreal in 1985 as one of the coordinators of the seva center. I was not at the cathedral when Gurumayi and a group of Siddha Yogis were in the church, but I remember hearing about this wonderful event when the group returned from the cathedral.

Not only did the bells ring when Gurumayi arrived at the cathedral but at the conclusion of her visit, Gurumayi and the group sat for a few moments of meditation. After meditating, they began to quietly hum the mantra Om Namah Shivaya. Gurumayi noticed that the sound was very good in the cathedral and asked Brother Rolph if the priest would allow the group to sing the mantra. Brother Rolph made the request, and the priest said yes. For several minutes, the mantra of the Siddha Yoga lineage resounded in this magnificent holy place. Later, the priest said that while the mantra was being chanted, he felt “enveloped in peace. It was beautiful.”

Thank you, Rolph Fernandes, for this beautiful, poignant Reflection that brings back so sweetly the memories of that extraordinary day when the bells of the Notre-Dame Basilica of Montreal rang for Gurumayi.

a sevite in Shree Muktananda Ashram