Birthday Bliss 2018

Redolence, Remembrance, Recognition
The Life and Legacy of Gurumayi Chidvilasananda

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In 1988, when Gurumayi was in California on a Teaching Visit, I was invited to offer seva in the dish room. This seva of washing dishes happened at the same time Gurumayi was giving talks. So, I ditched the seva and went to the evening satsang to hear Gurumayi speak. I did this night after night.

I began to notice that when I went up for Gurumayi's darshan, she would not speak to me or even look at me. I consoled myself, thinking, Well, at least she touches the top of my head with her peacock feathers. The next night: no peacock feathers!

After Gurumayi left to take her Teaching Visit to other places, I went back to the Ashram in Oakland and asked if I could offer seva. Incredibly, the sevite at the Seva Center said there was no seva! I inquired about the dish room and was told that all the dish room shifts were covered. I felt as if my heart had broken.

A year later, we were fortunate to have Gurumayi come to California once again. This time, when I was invited to offer seva washing dishes, I went immediately to the dish room and began to wash dishes with all my heart. Breakfast dishes turned into lunch dishes, these turned into dinner dishes, and I never wanted the seva to end. I was so happy! I was experiencing the bliss of the inner Guru.

One day, Gurumayi walked through the kitchen. I stood just outside the dish room doorway and folded my hands in namaste as she approached. When Gurumayi walked by me, she playfully reached out and grabbed my hands and gave them a little shake. It was delightful. I took from this moment two lessons. First, it is a blessing, a sign of grace, to be able to offer seva. Second, although it is wonderful to be in the Guru's physical presence, the practice of seva allows for the intimate experience of total absorption in the inner Guru.

Thank you, Gurumayi!
 

a Siddha Yogi from Oakland, California, USA

The gentle crescent moon smiled in the diamond-adorned night sky over Shree Muktananda Ashram, where I was offering seva for an upcoming Shaktipat Intensive. When I see the moon, no matter where I am in the world, I remember Gurumayi. Her benevolent smile is in the moon’s crescent, her teachings and grace in its wax and wane, and her boundless love and generosity in its fullness. This night was no different, and with devotion in my heart, I drifted to sleep.

In the tranquil realm of sleep, I had a beautiful dream of Gurumayi. In this dream, Gurumayi was enthusiastically pointing out all the exquisite details of the Bhagavan Nityananda Temple. Bade Baba’s luminous form. The scenes of nature surrounding the Temple—reminders of his all-pervasive presence. The spectrum of weave and color in the textiles. The thousand-petal lotus decorating the Temple’s circumference. The subtle floral fragrance permeating the air.

Gurumayi continued marveling for some time, bringing me into the rhythm of worship. At one point she paused and, looking down, noticed a tear in the carpet. Gurumayi slowly ran her foot over the tear and said, “Here is a bump. Someone could fall. Bring this to the attention of the SYDA Foundation management so they can fix it.”

I awoke the next morning and went straight to the Bhagavan Nityananda Temple. Sure enough, there was a tear in the carpet at the exact spot that Gurumayi had pointed to in my dream. Still, I doubted. I recorded this in my notebook as something that I would eventually take care of, but I moved to other seva tasks.  

A few days later as I was approaching the Bhagavan Nityananda Temple, Gurumayi was walking toward me, smiling. Just as in the dream, she shared how beautiful the Temple looked that day and said she had found a tear in the carpet. She requested that I show the SYDA Foundation management the carpet so that no one would fall. Amazed, I shared my dream with Gurumayi.

Playfully and with intent, Gurumayi asked, “Why did I have to ask you twice?”

I felt a surge of love, inspiration, and vitality. The understanding and clarity from this experience and interaction with Gurumayi is multifaceted and infuses my life to this day. I learned to trust, to have a caring eye, to act in a timely manner, to study and appreciate details and beauty as means of connecting to the Heart—and, especially, to know that the Guru-disciple relationship spans all planes of existence and, like a sailor’s North Star, is always righting our path.

Thank you, Gurumayi. Happy Birthday Bliss!

 

a Siddha Yogi from Woodside, California, USA
 

I woke up early the morning of my scheduled surgery, and I was very nervous. Even though the surgery would give me relief from a painful condition I had been living with for some years, the operation would require a long recuperation period, and I had to wonder if I was making the right choice.

Inwardly, I felt as if Gurumayi was calling me to my vegetable garden. I was new to the Siddha Yoga path, and wondered if this might be my imagination, but I found myself coaxed by a gentle nudge. My little garden has always been a place of peace for me. On this morning, as I tended my plants I felt Gurumayi’s love, her reassurance that I needed this operation. It was amazing to feel that Gurumayi was with me, to experience that she knew me and cared so much about me—and was telling me that I was doing the right thing.

I was still nervous about what lay ahead. As my concerned and loving husband drove me to the hospital, we were both anxious and very quiet. I began praying to Gurumayi in the car. Silently, I told Gurumayi that I wouldn’t be so afraid if I felt she were the one who would operate on me. This felt silly as soon as I thought it, but instantly I heard Gurumayi’s voice say, “Do you think I would let anyone else do it?” I was stunned. I felt blessed, truly and thoroughly.

Before surgery, the anesthesiologist introduced herself. She was a lovely Indian woman, and she wore a red bindi. This assured me that Gurumayi was with me. I felt that our inner conversations had been real!

The medication relaxed me and, despite my usual reserve, I told the anesthesiologist that I was glad she was Indian and was wearing a bindi, that I saw this as a sign from my Guru that everything was fine. I told her that during a previous procedure, I hadn’t responded to the anesthesia right away. There was a moment before that surgery when I was unable to move or speak but was still awake. I had eventually gone under before the procedure, but I hadn’t been sure I would, and this frightened me.

The anesthesiologist said she understood my fear and would make sure I was fully asleep. She asked if my Guru had given me a mantra. I told her it was Om Namah Shivaya. This lovely woman sat with me, tenderly stroking my cheek, and we repeated the mantra together until I was absolutely, completely asleep.

The surgery was successful, and my condition improved greatly.

From this experience I understood that Gurumayi loves me! Before this, I had underestimated the Guru’s infinite awareness and compassion. I believe that Gurumayi knows everything about me, that she knows me inside and out. On that day, I felt that I was the only person on her mind, that I had her complete and undivided attention. I imagine that countless others have felt the same way.

Sharing this story has deepened my appreciation for this experience—and for many others. Thank you, Gurumayi. Thank you. Thank you!
 

a Siddha Yogi from Florida, USA

In the summer of 1997, I was offering seva behind the counter in the Anugraha Amrit, which had quickly filled with hungry Siddha Yogis after a satsang with Gurumayi in the Shakti Mandap.

As I focused on the seva, I became aware that all activity in the Amrit had ceased. Glancing to my left, I realized that everybody was looking toward me. A photographer was pointing a camera toward me. A videographer was pointing a video camera toward me. Perplexed, I turned—and found that Gurumayi was standing behind me.

I stammered, “Oh. Hi.”

Gurumayi said to me, “You should turn around.”

Puzzled, since I had just turned around, I replied, “Yes, Gurumayi. Thank you.” With that, she moved on.

I knew that the Guru’s words carry great power. So, over the following days, I pondered on what I could learn from her words, “You should turn around.” I frequently repeated this direction to myself and considered its meaning, its possible guidance.

One day as I was leaving Anugraha, walking along the entry drive to the parking lot and repeating Gurumayi’s words, I just stopped—and turned around. What I saw was where I had come from! With that, I understood the guidance I had received—that I “should turn around”— to mean I should look back at my journals from that very summer, with all the entries about my meditations. Then I would see where I had come from. I’d be able to review my experiences and perhaps find the answer to my ongoing prayer to have an unequivocal experience of the Self.

I hurried home and eagerly opened my journal. There, in my own handwriting, was written evidence of all that I had experienced, silencing my doubts, making it clear that my prayer was being answered.

To this day, almost without fail, I journal after meditation, truthfully recording my experiences. Many of these might seem thin in the moment but are actually quite subtle. When they are recorded, they unfold further, often revealing profound realizations. I mark these to highlight them so that when I “turn around” and review my journals again, they’re easy to find. They provide encouragement and confirm my progress, my transformations, and the benefits of my practice.

Thank you, Gurumayi.

 

a Siddha Yogi from New Mexico, USA

When I was serving on staff in Gurudev Siddha Peeth in 1986, I was asked to help with a part-time seva project, something I would do in addition to the seva I regularly offered. I was informed that this new project did not need to be completed for a few months and would only involve an hour or so a day of my time. It sounded like a wonderful project. However, I found myself procrastinating on getting started.

A few days later, as I was crossing the sun-dappled courtyard where Gurumayi was giving darshan, I had a thought: “You’re really dragging your feet on this new seva assignment.” And just at that moment, I looked over at Gurumayi and saw her looking at me. The thought arose, “And Gurumayi knows it, too.”

The next day, I was at the office for the new seva and just beginning to think of how I would go about accomplishing it, when Gurumayi walked in. I let her know what I was working on, and she left. About a half hour later, my seva supervisor returned to the office after having spoken with Gurumayi. In a puzzled tone, the supervisor said that Gurumayi had asked if the project I was working on was finished yet. I found this humorous because, of course, I’d understood I had a few months to complete this project.

In the days that followed, Gurumayi came to the office once or twice a day, and each time she inquired about the status of my project, how close it was to being finished.

Then one day, about a week and a half after I had begun the project, Gurumayi asked me when it was going to be finished. I said it would be done in three or four days.

The next day when I returned to my dorm room after lunch, there was a note on the door. It said that I should come immediately to the office because Gurumayi wanted all the projects done, especially the one I was working on. As soon as I read the note, I felt something release inside of me. I inwardly said, “Yes, okay! You want it done; it will be done. It will be finished!” And with that, I was filled with joy, energy, and enthusiasm, and I immediately returned to the office.

I worked steadily into the evening. Gurumayi came into the office, and all she said was, “Finishing up?”

I continued working throughout the night, becoming completely absorbed. I heard the sounds of the Morning Arati begin in the Temple, and as I finished the last details of the project and stood up, the closing Om Purnamidam mantras—the mantras about perfection—had just begun to be chanted. I felt these mantras become alive and resound within the utter stillness of my being. I felt that everything is perfect, and I was completely one with this all-encompassing perfection. It was simple and yet incredibly profound and powerful. I understood that giving myself fully to the Guru’s command had brought me to this exquisite experience, and I felt immense gratitude to Gurumayi. I felt that this was the completion she had wanted me to experience.
 

a Siddha Yogi from Kansas, USA

Early in my pregnancy, I asked Gurumayi in darshan which Shaktipat Intensive I should take, meaning for the sake of the baby. Gurumayi’s response was, “You should eat more.”

I was surprised by this encounter with Gurumayi. I thought that I was eating very well, but after this darshan I began to eat as much and as often as I could. My midwife, not knowing what Gurumayi had said, also told me to try to gain as much weight as I possibly could.

The women in my immediate family have always been weight conscious and have valued being thin. As a young adult I’d suffered from an eating disorder. When my mother came to visit, she was astonished at how much I was eating. She expressed concern about my weight gain and told me that when she was pregnant with me, her doctor had given her diet pills.

However, because of Gurumayi’s guidance, as well as that of my midwife, I had the strength to ignore my mother’s influence and my old concerns about my body image. By the end of the pregnancy I had gained thirty pounds, which was quite a success! I gave birth to a healthy, full-term baby, six pounds, eight ounces.

a Siddha Yogi from New York, USA

At the end of Gurumayi’s stay in Gurudev Siddha Peeth in 2001, I was asked to be the director for Gurumayi’s farewell celebration. This was going to be a yatra, a pilgrimage, around the Ashram grounds.

I was meeting with a team of sevites to discuss the preparations for this event when Gurumayi walked into the meeting room. She asked us about the topic of our conversation, and then she began speaking about farewell celebrations in the past.

Gurumayi said the past events had often gone way over time. She said that when she would ask the director about this afterward, this person would come up with excuses: “Oh Gurumayi, you didn’t catch my eye” and “Oh Gurumayi, you gestured, and I thought…” Gurumayi had us rolling in laughter as she played out someone hiding behind their notebook, making up these excuses. What Gurumayi wanted, she told us, was a sevite who could manage the event and keep it on time.

I took this as clear direction from Gurumayi, a clear indication of what she expected from me. I practiced walking the proposed route with a small team of sevites. We looked at everything from Gurumayi’s perspective. We asked ourselves questions such as these: If this was my farewell, what would I like to do? What paths and places are of the most interest? How much time would I spend at each location along the route, making offerings and interacting with people? We explored various options.

I then walked over the same route with a stopwatch. I walked at a pace that seemed reasonable for a group of people with musicians, dancers, etc., and I timed each segment. From experience, I knew that Gurumayi’s stride can be brisk, and so I went back and re-timed each segment at that faster pace.
With this timing information, I worked with a small team of sevites to refine the route and the activities of this yatra. We made a detailed time schedule with minimum, maximum, and most probable times for each segment.

On the day of her departure, Gurumayi’s farewell yatra was an ecstatic event, full of singing, dancing, and jubilation. I have to say that our planning paid off. Let me give you one example. When Gurumayi approached the Shri Durga murti, she started a spontaneous dancing circle. Once the assistant director and I had supported the participants in forming the circle, the two of us huddled over the schedule. The assistant director had been clocking the actual time spent on each segment. We compared those times against the plan and reviewed our projections for the remaining events. We determined just how long the dancing could continue without impacting the overall timeline.

The energy of the chant and the dancing could have easily gone on . . . and on. I recalled Gurumayi’s words earlier. I saw that she was not trying to catch my eye or motion to me; Gurumayi was enjoying the ecstasy of the chanting and dancing. At the correct time, I asked one of Gurumayi’s assistants to inform her that I recommended we begin moving to the next event. I saw that as soon as Gurumayi received the communication from her assistant, she guided the dancing from the circle and along the path. This was a thrilling moment for me. I felt I was serving Gurumayi as she had wished.

Everything continued to go so well. We had ample time to form another spontaneous dancing circle in the Ashram courtyard and to line the road with chanters as Gurumayi departed in her vehicle.

As the car carrying Gurumayi drove away, the great golden energy that had enveloped me departed with her. However, the connection with Gurumayi in my heart remained. I stood for a while immersed in tenderness. And then I turned to help coordinate the wrap-up.

a Siddha Yogi from California, USA

In June 2002 during her Teachings Visit to California, Gurumayi chanted with the Siddha Yoga sangham aboard a boat in the San Diego Harbor. While most people recited Shri Guru Gita with Gurumayi in the main cabin, I stayed up on the bow with my three children. Then at the finale, the children were invited to join the chanting of Om Namo Bhagavate Muktanandaya.

I sat with my two-year-old son in my lap, about four feet from where Gurumayi was sitting in her chair. During the chant, my son fell asleep with my arms underneath him. I started to worry that I wasn’t being yogic because I was sitting in front of Gurumayi with my back hunched over, holding my son.
Gurumayi seemed to pick up on my concern because she looked at both of us then with an enormous amount of love. She smiled and nodded to me as if to let me know that everything was fine.

So, I dropped my pretensions of being a yogi and dove into the bliss of sitting at my Guru's feet, chanting the name of God, and holding my youngest child.
 

a Siddha Yogi from Washington, USA

It was Gurupurnima in 2000. I was at Shree Muktananda Ashram among thousands of other Siddha Yogis, and the energy of excitement and bliss vibrated in every direction.

My own heart, however, was heavy with doubt and restlessness.

Just recently, I had completed a year of thesis research and writing on Jnaneshwari, a commentary on Shri Bhagavad Gita. My topic was the Guru-disciple relationship. Having just graduated from college, I was aware that the whole big world was in front of me, which was both exciting and daunting. There were some problems in my family as well—and as appealing as the Ashram was to me, I felt that I just could not stay. I felt I needed some time away from Siddha Yoga to reflect on the last three years since shaktipat, so that I could understand and integrate these experiences for myself. I felt confident that this was the right choice, but I also felt guilty and apprehensive.

Walking on the Silent Path that day, I prayed aloud: “Gurumayi, I feel such gratitude and respect for all that you have given me. Yet I feel the need to go away for a while in order to explore the world. Please give me a sign that it’s okay for me to do this.”

As grace would have it, Gurumayi gave darshan that day. I joined the line with the firm resolve that I would address my issues with Gurumayi directly. Yet, when I was called forward for darshan, only a tiny, reluctant chirp emerged from my lips: “Thank you.” Gurumayi nodded and turned to offer her blessing to other devotees. I stood and began walking away, upset with myself. There was so much more I had wanted to share!
A few yards from her chair, I looked back at Gurumayi and found that she was looking at me. She said, “How’s the family?” Tears began to pour from my eyes. My family was going through many struggles at that time. How could Gurumayi have known?

Then Gurumayi tapped a Swami who was standing next to her, asking if I was the person who had written about the Jnaneshwari. Swami ji hurriedly approached me, reiterating Gurumayi’s question. “Yes,” I responded, “I just finished writing a thesis on Jnaneshwari.” Hearing my response, Gurumayi replied: “Ahhh… you two need to talk.”  She motioned us away from the chair.

Swami ji listened while I briefly recounted my family’s problems. He assured me that we would go back to Gurumayi and tell her about these things. Then, out of the blue, he said, “You didn’t hear what Gurumayi said in her talk, did you?”

“No, Swami ji,” I replied.

He told me that Gurumayi had said that if we needed to leave the Ashram for any reason, we should just plan on coming back someday.
I was stunned. I felt that Gurumayi had heard my prayer and responded to it, and not with some sign but by addressing my prayer directly in her talk! Then, when I didn’t take in what she’d said, she found another way to deliver her response!

But even more important for me, on this day Gurumayi cut through my doubts and sense of unworthiness by showing that she knows me, she knows about me, and she cares about what is happening in my life. She gave me the freedom to pursue my dreams, and she also gave me an open welcome to return when I was ready.

I will never forget this day or the immense love, compassion, and generosity I experienced from Gurumayi.
 

a Siddha Yogi from California, USA

In response to a letter I’d written, Gurumayi sent a reply, “So many dreams,” along with a dream journal and instructions to journal my dreams.

My letter had not touched on the subject of dreams and, from my perspective, had nothing to do with dreams. Yet I followed Gurumayi’s guidance, and began learning more about dreams and recording my dreams in the journal Gurumayi had given me.

For several years I was diligent in journaling my dreams each morning while they were fresh. Periodically, I also worked with friends in a joint exploration of our dreams. I found that my dreams were a window into my state. I could see more clearly what my mind was chewing on and which of my daily activities influenced my state for better or for worse. As Gurumayi said, there were many, many dreams, and I found that they pulled me in every direction.

Over time, my dreams became increasingly beautiful and serene. Today I can see that my dreams have been a source of insight into mundane challenges and also into some of the larger themes in my life. I have received many beautiful understandings through my dreams, and often these are dreams of Gurumayi.

I am also recording the insights that come up in my morning meditation practice. My meditation practice is becoming more harmonious with my waking, dreaming, and deep sleep states; and as this happens, my experience of the world is becoming more beautiful. My breathing has eased, and my responses to life’s ups and downs have become more measured.

Thank you, Gurumayi, for providing me with a practice that has helped me pay attention to—and have insights regarding—all the information in my awareness.
 

a Siddha Yogi from California, USA

In August 1991, a year after receiving shaktipat, I went to see Gurumayi in person at Shree Muktananda Ashram. On my first evening in the Ashram, I was sitting in satsang and listening to a speaker when I felt my body relax completely. I was so astonished by this new sensation that I looked around—and saw that Gurumayi had just entered the hall about fifty meters away.

In her talk that night, Gurumayi spoke about how people ask her questions about so many different kinds of things, and she expressed a wish that someone would ask her a question about their sadhana. I did have such a question, and Gurumayi’s words encouraged me to ask it. In darshan that evening, when a friend introduced me to Gurumayi, I shared with Gurumayi that I had just one hour a day to do spiritual practices. I asked, “Should I recite Shri Guru Gita or meditate?”

Gurumayi said, “Shri Guru Gita is forty minutes. Recite Shri Guru Gita for forty minutes and meditate for twenty.”

And this is what I have done ever since. I find that reciting Shri Guru Gita quiets my mind, preparing me for an enjoyable meditation. In fact, by following the prescription Gurumayi gave me, I cannot remember a time when I didn’t look forward to meditating for twenty minutes. Many days I relish meditating even longer. In this way I experience my sadhana unfolding.

Thank you, Gurumayi, for your grace and guidance in my sadhana.
 

a Siddha Yogi from Washington, USA