November 1, 2018
If you were to study all the languages from all the countries in the world, you would find thousands of words and phrases for the feeling, the awareness, the virtue of the heart that is gratitude. Some of these words are soft and sweet, sugar on your tongue as you voice them aloud. Others have a more resonant quality to them, stately and dignified, an organ’s deep sound taking form through your vocal folds. Still other words lilt and twirl when you say them; or else they might spark and pop, percussion inherent in the consonants.
Each one of these words and phrases—its sound, its nuance, the cultural context from which it derives its meaning—communicates some new dimension of gratitude. And they all feel necessary somehow; there can never be too many ways to name or express gratitude. If anything, the language we have seems to fall short, so big and multifaceted and mystifying is the sentiment to which we are attempting to put words.
November is the month of Thanksgiving in the United States and of similar festivals in other parts of the world. It is, traditionally, the time of the harvest, when those who till the land reap the bounty they had sown many moons before. Then they—and all those who benefit from their hard work—partake of the food that’s been gathered, giving thanks to the earth, to each other, and to the almighty spirit by whose grace such abundance and life is possible.
On the Siddha Yoga path, we too dedicate this time to reflection and gratitude. Truly speaking, these are ongoing practices in sadhana, both of them crucial to assimilating the Guru’s teachings and honing our perception of grace in the little and big moments of our lives. Yet there is also immense value in setting aside a specific time of year for this purpose and being joined by Siddha Yogis the world over in doing so. Many times our own remembrance of God and the Guru is evoked by the insights that other people share. We can more readily get in touch with our own deep-rooted thankfulness when we recognize that same sentiment in others.
Gurumayi’s Message for 2018 is Satsang—and I would say that if ever there were an encapsulation of what it is we have to be grateful for, this is it. Even one moment of satsang—one millisecond in the company of the Truth, one glimpse of our own Self—is incredible kismet. It is wondrous destiny. It is the fruit of lifetimes and cause enough for a veritable paean of thanks. Hence the prolific song and poetry of the great saints and sages, their own apparent struggle to articulate the extent of their gratitude, explored—paradoxically—through beautiful, captivating verse. There is one such doha, or couplet, by the poet-saint Kabir, a classic which finds a counterpart in texts of many traditions and even in the Shiva Mahimna Stotram. In the poem, Kabir Sahib writes:
If I make the earth my paper
and all forests my pen,
if I make ink out of all the oceans,
still, I could never finish writing the praises of Shri Guru.1
The thing is, on the Siddha Yoga path, it’s not just one moment in the company of the Truth that we’re talking about. Nor do we have to wait for the light to flash forth in our awareness of its own accord. In bestowing shaktipat diksha, and in imparting her Message, Gurumayi has given us the means to be in the company of the Truth again and again and again. Consider, for a moment, what this means. What does it say to you about the Guru’s generosity? And what is necessarily left unsaid about this generosity, given how fathomless its depths are, how unknowable?
It is always helpful to step back and ask such questions, and to engage in similar kinds of reflection. In truth, gratitude does not well up within you just because intellectually, you recognize that it should. However, you can use the intellect; if you stay with it, your line of thought and inquiry will lead you somewhere new and revelatory. You will access your heart’s wisdom and feeling.
This month, therefore, I encourage you to reflect with care and keenness on your practice of Gurumayi’s Message for 2018. If your sadhana over this past year feels like too vast an expanse to tread back over, then start with a single moment—one in which you are certain that you relished your own good company; you tasted what Gurumayi has so beautifully termed satyarasa, the ambrosia of the Truth. Remember what that moment was like, the texture of it, its specific feel and flavor. And then observe where your reflection takes you, the initial mental exercise, the precise act of pinpointing memory, leading to remembrance—to satsang itself, and to what naturally follows.
For support in your reflection and practice, you may turn to the Siddha Yoga path website. In November the website will feature the now-annual gallery of words for gratitude, a new word with accompanying audio posted each day of the month. There will, moreover, be compilations of some of the many teachings, commentaries, and images you have studied throughout the year—a virtual walk-through, if you will, of highlights of Siddha Yoga sadhana in 2018.
In India, this November is also the month of Deepavali (or Divali), the festival of lights. It is a holiday that we observe on the Siddha Yoga path as well, the dancing flames in diya lamps symbolic of the divine light of the Self, its triumph and endurance through all cycles of time and fluctuations of this universe. There will be related stories, photo galleries, and music on the website around the time of the festival (November 4 through 8).
Deepavali does not always take place in the month of gratitude, but when it does, the combination makes a wonderful kind of sense. We might discern a thread between the two celebrations. When the light of the Self blazes within us, we perceive abundance—and abundance of a kind that cannot be depleted, that does not change based on circumstance, that is unaffected by however long or short our list of grievances may be. If anything, it helps us move through our lives with greater equanimity.
We reflect this abundance on the outside, in the meals we create and share, the way we welcome others into our home and acknowledge them for what they have brought to our lives. Yet the real sense of it—the fulfillment, the contentment, the wanting for nothing more and the resultant flood of gratitude—is something we recognize on the inside.
And this sense, this feeling—it is the difference between the mechanical “thank you” we say out of social nicety and the force impelling our “thank you,” the one that arises readily, willingly, as it is born to, from our hearts. It is the wellspring that surged before and will last long after our words dissolve into silence. It is the idiom of the tears we let drip down our cheeks, the expression in our eyes as they shine starry bright and crease at the corners, revealing a tenderness. It is why no matter how many words we have in our collective vocabularies to convey our appreciation, there never can be—there never will be—enough.