May 1, 2020
Lately, I’ve been asking myself what makes a spiritual retreat. Is it the solitude? Is it the quiet? Certainly, it has to do with a person’s intention. These questions are coming up in the face of our unprecedented world situation, which is requiring many of us—myself included—to stay at home most of the time for our own well‐being and for the well‐being of others. It would be easy to chafe at this level of confinement, and yet over the millennia many seekers have sought to live in solitude and quiet so that they could more easily commune with the divine radiance within their own being.
On the Siddha Yoga path, we have been incredibly graced in this time with a series of Be in the Temple satsangs, often with Gurumayi, in live video streams from the Bhagavan Nityananda Temple in Shree Muktananda Ashram. In these satsangs, which began last month, we have had the joy of reciting sacred texts and chanting namasankirtanas with Gurumayi, listening to her talks, hearing bhajans from gifted singers in the Temple and from all over the world, and having darshan of Bade Baba. My experience of the satsangs has been that we truly were in the Temple, immersed in the profound stillness and vibrancy of this sacred place and in the spiritual resplendence of Bade Baba’s murti.
In these inspirational satsangs, Gurumayi spoke about how, for those of us who are sheltering in place (one emcee pointed out that, as Siddha Yogis, we are “sheltering in grace”), this time of general travail is a golden opportunity for Siddha Yoga sadhana. Gurumayi advised us to use this time to cultivate a space of inner stillness by engaging in the Siddha Yoga practices with discipline and ardor. Then, paradoxically, we may discover that the challenging events of this world are actually supporting us to go deeper into the divine silence within.
Gurumayi’s own Guru, Baba Muktananda, described in his autobiography, Play of Consciousness, how he engaged in an extended period of spiritual practice—and how his personal discipline allowed the grace he had received from his Guru to come to fruition. May is the month of Baba’s Birthday, the month in which we celebrate Baba’s attainment and the gift of shaktipat that he—and now Gurumayi—have given to the world. Many years ago, Gurumayi began referring to May as “Baba’s Month,” and she encourages us to immerse ourselves in her Guru’s life and teachings during this month of his birth.
For Baba’s Month
Throughout May there will be an abundance of opportunities to observe Baba’s Month on the Siddha Yoga path website. Baba’s Lunar Birthday is May 7 this year, and Baba’s Solar Birthday falls on May 16. I definitely encourage you to explore the website throughout the month of May to learn about Baba’s teachings and life.
Siddha Yoga Audio Satsang in Celebration of Baba Muktananda’s Birthday
The Siddha Yoga Audio Satsang in Celebration of Baba Muktananda’s Birthday—entitled by Gurumayi “Sound, Self, Serenity”—will be available on the Siddha Yoga path website for the entire month, beginning May 1. Swami Akhandananda is the teacher for this satsang, which will have voice‐over translation in French, Spanish, and Hindi and subtitles in another eight languages.
Topics to Explore in Honoring Baba
This year is the fiftieth anniversary of Baba’s First World Tour, and this month is the anniversary of Baba’s momentous announcement—on May 12, 1970—that he would be going on this historic tour to the West. I often think about the debt of gratitude all of us on the Siddha Yoga path owe to Baba’s obedience to his Guru’s command to go on that significant tour. Just consider how many thousands of lives were transformed by what unfolded during Baba’s First World Tour! This month, I invite you—whether you went on tour with Baba or are just now learning about him—to visit the webpages below to learn more about Baba’s life and legacy.
- Stories about Baba Muktananda are a fascinating and moving collection of experiences that people had of his grace and teachings.
- Baba Muktananda’s Darshan and Wisdom has thirty-one images of Baba, each with an essential teaching from him.
- Jyota se Jyota Jagao, “Kindle My Heart’s Flame with Your Flame,” is a hymn written by Baba’s student, the composer and singer Hari Om Sharan, and now sung daily in Siddha Yoga satsangs and chants. In this audio recording, you can sing Jyota se Jyota Jagao with Gurumayi and the music ensemble during an arati in the Bhagavan Nityananda Temple.
- Eka Mastana Yogi, “An Ecstatic Yogi Has Arrived,” is a bhajan also written for Baba by Hari Om Sharan and is to be on the website this month, beginning around Baba’s Lunar Birthday. This bhajan opens by describing Baba in memorable terms: “An ecstatic yogi has arrived to awaken the inner shakti. A bliss-intoxicated yogi has arrived to awaken us to the sound of So’ham.”
A Sign of Baba
Throughout this month of Baba’s Birthday, here is another way for you to experience Baba’s presence. Each time you visit the Siddha Yoga path website, spend a few moments looking at the radiant stillness of the mountain range at the top of the home page. The mountains in this photograph have many associations with Baba. First, they are located in the Himalayas of Kashmir, the birthplace of the nondual philosophy of Kashmir Shaivism that Baba most often taught and which he helped make available to the world. In these very mountains is a thousand-year-old Shiva temple where Lord Shiva has been venerated for all this time.
And there’s a beautiful “Baba moment” associated with this image. After the banner was completed, one of the members of the design team wanted to find out more about the mountains pictured and made a stunning discovery: this Himalayan range is named Mukteshwar. The name has the same root as Baba Muktananda’s own name, and it’s close to the name of his beloved book of aphorisms, Mukteshwari. What a delightful synchronicity!
Explore and Study Gurumayi’s Message
Meditation Session IV
The fourth session of the Siddha Yoga Meditation Sessions via Audio Stream becomes available this month, and what an intriguing title it has! “Relaxing the Mind, Accepting Good Fortune: Sukha-saubhāgya” will become available on May 23. In English, Sukha-saubhāgya means “true good fortune.” This meditation session will support us in cultivating a relaxed mind and an awareness of the many ways our lives are filled with good fortune.
A Story on Gurumayi’s Message
The Stories on Gurumayi’s Message for 2020 is a delightful and thought-provoking collection of wisdom tales that support our engagement with Gurumayi’s Message. Recently, I encountered “Alexander the Great Visits Diogenes,” an ancient Greek legend that Shambhavi Christian rendered into written English and also recorded as an oral story. In this tale, the Macedonian ruler visits the renowned but eccentric philosopher, who lives in a barrel and cares not for social convention. What happens when the great Alexander stands over the great Diogenes and asks him for words of wisdom? I’ll let you discover for yourself how the story unfolds. I feel there are many ways this story can shed light on our understanding of Gurumayi’s Message. One that I find interesting is the glimpse it gives of the power that can come to one who adheres to his own inner source.
The Workbook on Gurumayi’s Message for 2020
Recently, I’ve been turning my attention to The Workbook on Gurumayi’s Message for 2020. My wife, Achala Woollacott, has enthusiastically participated in all of the different learning modalities presented by the Workbook from its very inception, and I realized that I, too, would benefit from applying these varied approaches to exploring Gurumayi’s Message. I’m a retired writing teacher, and in coming to a deeper understanding of a teaching, I often turn to words—I read what the Guru has to say about a particular teaching, or I contemplate it and then write down my own thoughts. It never occurred to me to move my body, create a mind map, or pick up colored pencils and make a drawing.
With the guidance of the Workbook, however, I took all three of those approaches—and I had an experience that was luminous and deep. Without sharing the exercise itself, let me say that at one point I was in my living room, standing with my arms overhead and gently waving as I looked out the window and absorbed myself in the presence of a beautiful juniper tree growing just outside our house. Immediately, I felt a new level of kinship with the tree—I felt rooted like the tree and my appendages were moving like the tree’s branches were moving. I could feel in my cells that the tree and I were one. Words do not capture the experience; yet I can say that after years of contemplating my kinship with nature, this exercise brought me to a deeper level of experience and knowing—and it happened because I was using my body as a means to more deeply experience the natural world.
Now, I am turning to the Workbook exercises regularly—and I heartily recommend that you delve into your study of Gurumayi’s Message by engaging in the Workbook yourself. It’s not too late to start!
Maharashtra Day—May 1
This Indian holiday celebrates the creation on May 1, 1960, of the Indian state of Maharashtra, which is where Gurudev Siddha Peeth is located. This auspicious day is observed with public and private festivities, which often include performances of lazim (a form of folk dancing) and songs.
Bhagavan Buddha Jayanti—May 7
Buddha Jayanti, also known as Buddha Purnima in India, celebrates the birthday of Lord Buddha. It is the most sacred Buddhist festival, celebrated by monks coming together in temples to give talks and recite verses from Buddhist scriptures. Visitors offer their prayers and holy rituals to murtis of the Buddha. As befits the beneficent nature of Lord Buddha, this holiday is a peaceful and uplifting occasion.
Mother’s Day—May 10 (in twenty-five countries)
Baba began the dedication in his Play of Consciousness with the words “My mother loved me very much…”1 He always spoke fondly of his mother and of all mothers. Both Baba and Gurumayi have always honored mothers deeply for the many ways they bring love into this world and for the ways they nurture children, helping them to become loving adults. Mother’s Day is celebrated in fifty countries around the world, and twenty-five of them, including the U.S., mark the holiday on the second Sunday in May. On Mother’s Day, Gurumayi invites us to express our gratitude for the truly profound contribution that mothers—and those in mothering roles—have made to this world and to our own lives.
Recently I was meditating in our garden, occasionally opening my eyes to take in the sunlight and the beauty of the flowers. As I did this, my attention was drawn to a small butterfly that was going from flower to flower, probing for minuscule drops of nectar. I watched as it unhurriedly visited a number of blossoms, flitting between them like a tiny artwork blown gaily in the breeze. After a time, I recognized that this butterfly was showing me a way to live my own life. I too could savor many moments of “nectar” throughout my day, nourishing my being with glimpses of beauty, light, color, shapes, shadows, and sounds. All it would require would be for me to have the intention to see and savor what is already around me.
With further reflection, I realized that this butterfly was giving me a wonderful model for practicing Gurumayi’s Message throughout my day. I saw that, with a bit of remembrance and intention, we can pause frequently throughout our days—even briefly, like a butterfly—to savor the nectar of the Self within our own being. What garden might we discover within ourselves as we do this, replete with nectar that nourishes and enlivens our whole being? What an inner adventure we could embark on even as we stay close to home in this challenging time!
All the learning activities and other elements mentioned in this letter provide us with pathways into the garden of the supreme Self. I invite you to be like the butterfly and try out a number of these to discover which ones you resonate with most strongly and find wisdom or delight in. Then you can return to them again and again to nourish your mind and heart. Create a divine May for yourself!