Birthday Bliss 2014

Reflections on Gurumayi Chidvilasananda

Offering Seva with Easefulness

When I reflect on the most significant practice in my Siddha Yoga sadhana, the very first thing that emerges in my consciousness is: darshan. From 1991 to 2003, I offered full-time seva on staff in Shree Muktananda Ashram and on Gurumayi’s Teaching Visits in India, Europe, Mexico, and the United States. Almost every day there was a satsang with Gurumayi which was attended by thousands of devotees and new seekers. One of the main elements of the satsang was receiving Gurumayi's darshan. This was my favorite practice, especially because I had the privilege of offering seva during darshan.

Darshan means to be in the presence of a great being. On the Siddha Yoga path I have learned that darshan happens in the heart. This has also been my experience. In fact, my experience of coming forward to Gurumayi's chair and receiving Gurumayi’s grace directly from her person has only strengthened my awareness of Gurumayi's presence in my own heart.

During darshan, people from all walks of life would come forward and pranam to Gurumayi, offering their gratitude for having received her teachings and blessings. Some would ask Gurumayi a question while others would pranam in silence. At times the line was so long that darshan would continue for hours on end—four hours, six hours, eight hours! Gurumayi was as loving, compassionate, and present with the very last person as she was with the very first. Sometimes ten or twelve people would come before Gurumayi at once, and yet she connected with each one of them in a personal way. Sometimes Gurumayi would bless devotees with a brush from her wand of peacock feathers. Seekers who were visiting for the first time would be introduced during darshan. Each interaction was unique and perfect for each person's sadhana in that moment. The darshan assistants would sit by Gurumayi's side and help with the many interactions taking place between Gurumayi and her devotees.

At the age of seventeen I was both a darshan assistant and the supervisor for all the assistants. In both roles, I focused intently on doing my best. However, the harder I tried to “do my best,” the more nervous and out of sync I would become. This would result in my missing Gurumayi's cues, not understanding people's questions to Gurumayi, and not being able to give clear direction to the assistants. Instead of feeling that I was offering seva, I would feel like I was an obstacle.

One evening I made a resolution to pay greater attention to Gurumayi's talk during the satsang. In that satsang, Gurumayi taught about the power of the mantra Om Namah Shivaya. Gurumayi said that the mantra has the power to purify all thoughts, words, and actions.

This teaching spoke directly to my heart. I felt that the mantra could help me to be at ease and in the present moment during seva. So I started to put this teaching into practice.

While offering seva, I would pause, take a breath for a moment, and mentally repeat
Om Namah Shivaya. Before an interaction, I would remember Om Namah Shivaya. Before speaking, I would first say to myself, Om Namah Shivaya.

Lo and behold! It only took a moment for me to pause and reflect on the mantra, but as I did so, I started to feel the connection with everyone around me. I began to realize that I was part of the magical flow of the shakti. I was moving, speaking, and acting from a place of love and profound stillness. My mind was very alert and tranquil at the same time. Since I was now present in the moment, I began to understand Gurumayi's requests of me without delay—she could make a subtle gesture and I knew what was being asked of me. These moments of alertness and tranquility continued to increase, and I was able to offer seva with the awareness that I was a true support to Gurumayi and the people coming for darshan.

I shared my experience with the other sevites on the darshan team, and we started to meditate on the mantra together before seva each morning. As we continued this practice, we began to offer seva together with greater harmony. It felt like the most beautifully choreographed dance: we would move gracefully and speak kindly, anticipating who needed help, and understanding each other's roles and responsibilities.

One day after darshan, Gurumayi told me that she had noticed that I was more at ease while offering seva and that all the darshan assistants I was supervising were working well together.

I was so happy to hear Gurumayi say this and I was delighted to tell Gurumayi about our practice of meditating on the mantra. She listened intently, looking at me with so much love, and then she gave me a knowing smile. Gurumayi had been right there with me in every moment.

Now, twenty years later, I continue this practice of remembering the mantra in my daily life. What a gift from Gurumayi! I cherish this gift to this day.

In 2005 I was certified as a hatha yoga teacher. What I had learned as a darshan assistant so many years ago is still very pertinent to my life now, as a teacher living in Ireland. Every time I silently repeat the mantra Om Namah Shivaya before I speak, my words are infused with love and kindness. Every time I silently repeat Om Namah Shivaya before I begin my classes, I feel uplifted. Through this practice, I have seen how others relate to me with respect and understanding.

Any moment spent with Gurumayi yields fruit beyond measure. I feel so blessed that I have had the privilege to spend so many hours offering seva in darshan. My intention is that I will be able to share this invaluable gift with everyone I come in contact with.


About the Author

Kanta Barrios was introduced to the Siddha Yoga path in 1989, on a visit to Shree Muktananda Ashram during Gurumayi’s Birthday celebration. Kanta served on staff in Shree Muktananda Ashram and Gurudev Siddha Peeth from 1991 to 2003. Currently, Kanta lives in Dublin, Ireland with her husband, Ian O’Brian. She is a certified hatha yoga teacher, the coauthor of books on healthful baking, and a project manager for an international publishing firm.


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Thank you so much, Kanta, for sharing your grace-filled experience. Currently, in my daily interactions, I pause before I speak in answering a question or in responding to a situation. Now I will remember the mantra Om Namah Shivaya as well. I look forward to this daily practice.

a Siddha Yogi from Massachusetts, USA

Kanta’s words touched me. They inspire me to be in the present moment and to take a second to repeat Om Namah Shivaya before I start to speak, work, or interact.

Also, when I read, “Gurumayi had been right there with me in every moment,” I visualized and could feel Gurumayi’s loving presence in my own life.

Thank you.

a Siddha Yogi from Pune, India

I was inspired by reading this Reflection from Kanta this morning. On my way to work, I resolved to repeat the mantra before speaking with others. But in the busyness of work, I did not do this even once!
On the way home I reflected on this, and I saw that even the sincere intention to repeat the mantra had borne wonderful fruit. All through my day, there was a subtle thread of sacredness and spaciousness. Seeing this made me very happy, and I resolved to continue my sweet efforts to practice japa. I put on a recording of Gurumayi chanting the mantra and began to chant with her—with gusto. The sound of the mantra filled the car, and waves of joy arose within me. Welling up were the words, “Yes! Give voice to the great ecstasy within!”

a devotee from Melbourne, Australia

When I read Kanta’s Reflection, I first thought about the priceless experiences I have had during formal darshan with Baba and with Gurumayi. That led to reflection on the variety of ways I have experienced darshan—in meditation, in dreams, during my daily visits to the website, and, especially, darshan of the Guru’s presence within. My experiences of the inner Guru, the shakti, that unmistakable subtle inner pulsation, have strengthened my faith and my resolve.
I am grateful for shaktipat, for the Siddha Yoga practices, and for my own perseverance. I am able to have this inner darshan any time when I remember to pause, focus on my breath, and turn within.
Thank you, Gurumayi.

a Siddha Yogi from Connecticut, USA

Thanks to Kanta for sharing with us this beautiful story of a worthy student and a generous Master. I was moved by how Kanta, in her longing to be of better service to her Guru, was able to receive and put into practice the teaching from Gurumayi that made it possible for her to accomplish her goal.
What a beautiful spirit Kanta demonstrates! I loved reading how she shared what she’d learned with the other members of her team, bringing them all on board, and how, twenty years later, she continues to share the fruits of what she learned from Gurumayi. 

A Siddha Yoga Meditation Teacher 

Reading Kanta’s piece, I was reminded of how my own son had the opportunity to offer seva in residence at Shree Muktananda Ashram after he completed his college studies. I watched how, through offering seva, he became very strong, developing the attitude and innate skills he now applies in his professional life.
I know other young people who have offered a year or more of seva at Shree Muktananda Ashram before or after college, and I’ve noticed the same kind of transformation in each of them. They are confident, focused, and caring young adults who bring Gurumayi’s love and the Siddha Yoga teachings into everything they do. 
Thank you, Gurumayi, for the profound and loving guidance you are giving to our children.

a Siddha Yogi from Washington, USA

Kanta’s experience of the power of darshan and of repeating the mantra spoke directly to my mind and heart. It struck me what a profound action it is to pause and repeat the mantra before speaking or acting. While this practice is stunning in its simplicity, to me it is also transformative, because in that moment I have chosen to sacrifice the chatter of the mind and instead, offer my allegiance to the great Self. I have chosen to have Gurumayi’s darshan and to bring that grace into the moment of interaction with others.
Thank you, Kanta, for sharing your experience of Gurumayi’s darshan, which, as you say, yields fruit beyond measure.

a Siddha Yogi from Castlemaine, Australia