You Are Beautiful

An Account of the Christmas Day Celebrations in Shree Muktananda Ashram
December 25, 2012

By Shambhavi Christian and Rohini Menon

Gurumayi has said many times that on the Siddha Yoga path every holiday, every celebration, is a very good reason to remember God, to glorify God, and to offer gratitude to God. Every holiday is a time to take a moment and experience the divinity within. Every celebration is a time to look around and give one’s best—both within and without, to ourselves and to others; and then carry the amazing spirit of the celebration into our daily lives.

In keeping with this intention for celebrations, the Christmas Day festivities in Shree Muktananda Ashram contributed to everyone’s experience of God’s presence scintillating within and without. The Guru’s grace flowed like a river throughout the celebration, refreshing everyone’s spirit.

On Christmas morning, December 25, Gurumayi went to the Temple in Atma Nidhi for Bade Baba’s darshan. The Temple was adorned with red roses, and Bade Baba’s benevolent smile graced the entire space.

With this benediction, Gurumayi entered the Annapurna kitchen where sevites were deeply focused on preparing a sumptuous Christmas Day bhandara, or feast. Gurumayi greeted everyone with a joyous “Merry Christmas!” and everyone responded with a delighted “Merry Christmas, Gurumayi!” Joy and delight danced in the air.

In the kitchen Gurumayi saw trays and trays of scones on a bakery trolley. Gurumayi picked up a scone and teasingly asked one of the young sevites to open her mouth. The young sevite opened her mouth wide. Then after a few seconds of everyone giggling, Gurumayi put the scone back on the tray. The young sevite laughed and said she had expected Gurumayi to put the entire scone in her mouth. Then the sevite shared that when she was seven years old, Gurumayi had once asked her to open her mouth; then Gurumayi placed the end of a long breadstick in her mouth and held it as the little girl chomped and chomped until it was all gone.

This story illustrates how time and age are irrelevant in the Guru’s presence. There is an unbroken connection. Anecdotes like this also reveal to a devotee their own progress in sadhana, and the devotee experiences an ever-deepening connection to the Guru’s grace.

When Gurumayi looked around Annapurna kitchen she noticed that there were employees working, and Gurumayi asked the head of Annapurna if he was planning to give them Christmas Day off, since this holiday is so important to their families. He said yes, he would like to do that. The employees were teary-eyed, and expressed their incredible gratitude for this generosity. At Gurumayi’s request the head of Annapurna packed bhandara lunches for each employee to take to their families.

This was the spirit of the day; it was about giving—giving abundantly. As the Guru’s grace flowed like a river, everyone in the Ashram experienced the goodness in our own hearts and realized that giving is our very nature.

Speaking about nature, it was a white Christmas in Shree Muktananda Ashram. A light snow had fallen the night before. When everyone woke up in the morning, we were greeted with a vision of pure white, which added to the holiday spirit.

As Gurumayi walked into the Annapurna Dining Hall, which at that moment was empty, she encountered two sevites who were entering from another door—Rajamani Sinclair, the head of the Music Department, and Kenny Werner, a well-known jazz pianist who is a visiting sevite in the Music Department. Seeing them, Gurumayi asked, “Do you know why God has made us bump into each other this morning, just before the satsang?” They were at a loss for words. Then Gurumayi walked with them to the Giving Tree, which was shining with lights and decorations, and said, “It’s because, during the satsang, we will be chanting a garland of namasankirtanas.” Both sevites were extremely enthusiastic at hearing this good news.

Speaking of the Giving Tree, several years ago Gurumayi gave a new name to the holiday tree, which is traditionally called a “Christmas tree.” She named it the Giving Tree. The reason for this name is that all the sevites who are in Shree Muktananda Ashram during the holiday week receive gifts as prasad from Gurumayi from under this tree. The tree has truly become a Giving Tree because every sevite finds the perfect gift for him or herself. One of the neat things is that Gurumayi has also suggested that there can be an exchange of gifts; if a sevite selects a gift that they may like but they may not be able to use for various reasons, then they are most welcome to find another sevite who wishes to exchange gifts with them. Stories abound about how, through these gestures of kindness, the doors of the heart are flung open even more widely (if that is possible!)

Right next to the Annapurna Dining Hall is the foyer, Nidhi Chauk, which is like the town square of Atma Nidhi. The main entrance of Atma Nidhi, the entrance from the Lower Lobby, the entrance from Annapurna Dining Hall, and the entrance to Shri Nilaya all meet in Nidhi Chauk.

By this time, all the devotees had gathered in Nidhi Chauk, on their way to Shri Nilaya for the Christmas Day Celebration Satsang. Gurumayi entered Nidhi Chauk. We saw a twinkle in her eyes, and she smiled as if she knew a secret. The Siddha Yoga magic of transformation was in store for us all! But we had no idea how this moment would unfold, what this space held for us.

Gurumayi said, “I would like to see a group of five men come before us, and dance.” There was much laughter as a few men braved the crowd, taking hesitant steps into the center of Nidhi Chauk. Gurumayi invited the men to begin dancing for a few moments in total silence. After two or three minutes, the audience applauded, the dancers exited the center, and another group of five men walked into the center to dance. For each group of men, Gurumayi invited the audience to give a theme for the dancers to express, and to provide sound effects. So it continued, group after group—dancing in snow, in fire, in wind, in rain, in step, and in moonlight. Although many dancers seemed a bit self-conscious at first, everyone gave their best to Gurumayi’s invitation to dance. It didn’t take long for their reservations to dissolve.

As group after group danced, it seemed that we were no longer performers and observers; we were all stars moving at our own pace in God’s galaxy, with the awareness that everyone deserves this sacred love. It is this shared love that makes the Siddha Yoga path a path of love.

There were many children, teenagers, and young-at-heart devotees near Gurumayi who were bouncing on their feet, very eager to express their love for her on this celebratory day. Gurumayi invited them to go to the center and choose a song that they would like to dance to. After a brief group huddle, one of the teenagers called out their choice: “Jangal Jangal Phir Diwane.”

This final dance felt like the crest-jewel of the event in Nidhi Chauk. And when Gurumayi spoke afterwards about the meaning of the qawwali, it was clear to us that through this dance God was adored. An incredible worship had taken place. Their dance was a Temple without form.

All our hearts were overflowing with the divine beauty of the day. Our experience of contentment was so great that if the Celebration Satsang had ended then and there, we still would have felt that we had received everything. However, whenever there is a celebration in Gurumayi’s presence and under Gurumayi’s guidance, there is no end to the flowing river of grace.

Gurumayi shared with everyone that she heard the children would be singing in the Celebration Satsang, and afterwards we would be chanting. For this celebration, Gurumayi requested that we chant a garland of namasankirtanas to invoke the grace of God and the Guru. Gurumayi said, “Today it will be people’s choice,” and invited everyone to call out the name of their favorite namasankirtana. Gurumayi asked Rajamani and Kenny to make the final choice of chants so the garland would fit the time available in the satsang, and then to sequence the chants according to the ragas of each chant.

Joyfully and with contented hearts, everyone made their way into Shri Nilaya hall to continue the satsang—the flowing river of grace.

When everyone was seated, fourteen children sang the song “Kindle My Heart.” We felt our hearts could expand no more; but the Guru’s grace has a way of enveloping every cell of the heart.

Gurumayi asked Kenny to share when he had first been touched by the Siddha Yoga spirit. Without missing a beat, Kenny replied, “It was in 1990. I took a Shaktipat Intensive with my family. I knew I had been touched by the Siddha Yoga spirit because, when I arrived home, everything and everyone I had loved before, I loved even more. Everything I loved to do, I loved to do even more. This is when I knew that I had found my path.”

Gurumayi then invited a few other sevites to share when they were first touched by the Siddha Yoga spirit.

One sevite, Shami Ridgell, shared that when she was a teenager, her father and step-mother brought her to meet Gurumayi in Mexico City. Initially Shami was resistant to meeting Gurumayi; however, when she came in front of Gurumayi in darshan, Gurumayi smiled at her and said, “You are beautiful.” Shami looked around to see who Gurumayi was speaking to. Gurumayi looked at Shami again and said, “YOU are beautiful.” Shami peered over her shoulder to see who was behind her; then she saw everyone in the room looking at her and telling her, “Gurumayi is saying that YOU are beautiful.” When Shami looked back at Gurumayi their eyes met, and Shami got it. She experienced that Gurumayi had seen who she truly is.

Gurumayi thanked all the devotees who had shared and said, “Beautiful. When you share your love for the Siddha Yoga path and the Guru, your life shines even more beautifully.” Then Gurumayi said, “On that note of beauty, let me tell you—chanting does make you experience your own beauty. You ARE beautiful.”

The namasankirtanas resounded in our hearts that were flowing in the river of grace. Hare Rama, Hare Krishna; Jaya Jaya Shiva Shambho; Om Namo Bhagavate Nityanandaya; Muktananda Mahan; Shivaya Namah Om; Samba Sadashiva; and Kali Durge. The chanting reverberated beyond the walls of Shri Nilaya, throughout the Ashram, and far beyond the boundaries of Shree Muktananda Ashram.

The conductors were Rajamani Sinclair and Carlos del Cueto, a visiting sevite who had arrived from England to offer seva in Shree Muktananda Ashram after many years. Although this garland had come about spontaneously, the conductors seamlessly led the music ensemble and all the devotees from one chant to the next, all the way into the arati, Jyota se Jyota Jagao. As soon as the arati began, the sun emerged from behind the dark clouds, and shone through the skylight of Shri Nilaya. This made all our smiles shine even brighter.

After the arati, Gurumayi said, “Beautiful. The namasankirtanas were beautiful. All of you are beautiful. It has been a beautiful satsang. Beauty permeates everywhere.”

Then Gurumayi asked Carlos if he had visited the Siddha Yoga path website homepage that morning.

Carlos said, “Yes.”

Gurumayi asked, “Did you read the message for you?”

He said, “Y-y-yesss, but I don’t recall the exact words.”

Gurumayi requested the satsang director to display the homepage on the screens in the hall. Gurumayi asked Denise Thomas, SYDA Foundation Website Department head, to point out where the message for Carlos could be found. Denise explained in great detail, with great enthusiasm, how to find the message for Carlos hidden in the golden AUM heart under the photos of Gurumayi and Baba. A sevite in the Live Events Department clicked on the heart and there it was—the message for Carlos from Gurumayi and Baba: “SO HAPPY TO SEE YOU!”

Gurumayi invited everyone in the hall to join in saying, “So happy to see you, Carlos!” Gurumayi then said to Carlos, “The bond between the Guru and the disciple creates an eternal thread. That thread never breaks; that relationship never ends. So happy to see you, Carlos!”

Then Gurumayi spoke to all of us and said, “In all seriousness, this message is for everyone. I want you all to know, I am so happy to see you. Every time you click on the heart, I am happy to see you. The Guru’s love is so close to you. You just need to enter the heart, and there you find the Guru’s love. On the Siddha Yoga path website, it’s just a click away! Within your own being, it’s just a breath away.”

Gurumayi acknowledged everyone for wearing the color red for the occasion of the Christmas holiday. Gurumayi then said that those who were wearing black were perhaps extending the Christmas Eve experience of Silent Night.

Gurumayi said that she had recently heard the story of how the song “Silent Night” was written in Europe, and asked if anyone could tell the story. A visiting sevite, Lakshmi Wells, raised her hand and shared the following:

Around 200 years ago, in a village in Europe, a young priest wrote a simple poem about the birth of Jesus Christ. Two years later, on Christmas Eve, he asked a musician friend of his to put his poem to music, so that it could be sung that very night for the Christmas Eve mass. The priest asked his friend to compose the melody and guitar accompaniment. His friend did so, and that night, together, they gave the world this gift of song. Through this priest’s simple, heartfelt desire to give, Silent Night has become one of the world’s most beloved Christmas songs. Although initially this poem was created for the people in this priest’s village, now everyone benefits.

Gurumayi said, “Love is simple. You don’t need to be dramatic to show your love. Love can travel easily; love can spread easefully.” Gurumayi thanked all the children and said, “Children’s hearts are simple and pure. God dwells in their hearts with total abandon, which is visible in the way children embrace everyone with total freedom, and the way they delight everyone’s hearts. This is why we celebrate the life of a child. Remember that God is alive, and the Guru’s grace is very great.”

Then Gurumayi explained how she always recommends to the parents to write down their children’s experiences of God and life, so that when the children become teenagers and begin to forget God, they have something to remind them of what is within them. All the parents nodded their heads as though they were listening to Gurumayi intently and making a plan to continue journaling their children’s sweet moments and lovely stories. To us, this interaction between Gurumayi and the parents had a timeless quality—we were witnessing how the Guru has guided disciples from time immemorial. We felt beautiful.

Gurumayi encouraged everyone present to speak to our family and friends about how we celebrated Christmas in Shree Muktananda Ashram. Gurumayi said, “Let everybody know the joy you experienced today. The treasure of love increases when you spread that love. It is your dharma to share the good things in life.”

Gurumayi concluded the glorious Celebration Satsang with these words, “Let us make this world a better paradise, whether we are laughing or crying, jumping or dancing, lying down or working, going or coming, talking or in silence, day or night.”

Connecting the conclusion of the satsang to the beginning of the celebration, Gurumayi said, “Let us bump into one another again and again. Let our hearts make the sound of two crystal glasses ringing together. Let us drink the wine of love again and again.”

By this time, we could hardly distinguish the boundaries of our own hearts in this flowing river of grace.

Following the satsang, Gurumayi invited all the visiting sevites to come forward for darshan. In Siddha Yoga satsangs, darshan is a time when devotees can come forward and offer gratitude to the Guru.

One of the unique things about today’s darshan was that a small python came for darshan too! You must be wondering how that happened. A young adult whose parents are staff members in the SYDA Foundation likes to bring her small pet python, named Raja, for Gurumayi’s darshan whenever she visits the Ashram. The young adult has had Raja for eight years, so Raja has had a few opportunities to receive Gurumayi’s darshan. And Gurumayi enjoys meeting Raja every time. Today, as always, Gurumayi sweetly and gently held Raja on her lap. He seemed very much at ease—and was most definitely a source of delight for those who are not wary of reptiles and a source of wonder for those who preferred to admire him from afar. smiley face

The culminating events of the celebration included enjoying the delicious holiday bhandara, selecting a gift as prasad from Gurumayi from under the Giving Tree, participating in the rest of the Ashram Daily Schedule, and finally, seeing the almost full Moon shining next to Jupiter in the silent night sky above Shree Muktananda Ashram.

We offer our gratitude for Gurumayi’s grace which flows like a river, today and every day, in the lives of her devotees. The Siddha Yoga practices keep Gurumayi’s grace shining in all our hearts and actions. May we always remember the Guru’s love.

Sadgurunath Maharaj ki Jay!

A Photo Gallery of Christmas Day Celebrations in Shree Muktananda Ashram

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Images ©2013 SYDA Foundation®

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