June 26, 2022
If you could give it a name, or assign it a color, or accord to it a sound, how would you describe what it’s felt like to be swathed in the glow of Gurumayi’s Birthday? How would you describe what it’s felt like to be buoyed and lifted by the bliss of the birthday and all that it signifies, and to know that, whatever else is happening in your life or in your country or in the world at large, this flow of the Guru’s grace is definite, and it will only continue in its movement toward you? In the early morning on Friday, June 24, about an hour before sunrise, five planets were visible to the naked eye, lining up in an arc according to their distance from the sun. It was the first time in eighteen years that such a phenomenon has occurred, issuing a playful challenge, it would seem—a one-upping—to the concept of stars aligning. I’ve often felt that the sky is all-knowing. Yes, something was and is aligning.
The planets have been marching steadily toward each other throughout the month of June, and on the 24th, they were joined by the moon, which landed right near the center of the path that could be traced between them. Between the sun and the moon were Mercury and Venus, the latter of which is known, of course, as the planet of love. On Friday, then, or as Hindi speakers call it, shukravar—the day dedicated to shukra graha, the planet Venus—the skies held love up on a platter of silver and gold. The celestial trajectory mirrored our own on the Siddha Yoga path, as we appreciate the importance of the current moment and anticipate what’s to come—and as we recognize that underneath it all, it’s love that connects them, our present and our future, that links them together like some unseen gravitational force.
We go from light to light on the Siddha Yoga path, from love to more love.
Try saying it aloud to yourself: “Shubh Gurupurnima.”
And now, say it again, adding your name after “Shubh Gurupurnima.”
Again and again, and once or twice or as many times as you’d like after that, say these words to yourself. They are sacred.
When I say, “Shubh Gurupurnima,” I feel empowered—empowered by that which is auspicious, or shubh. I feel empowered by the Guru’s energy, and by the sheer magnetism of the approaching full moon, purnima. Once more, I wish you a shubh Gurupurnima.
Gurupurnima is taking place on July 13 this year, and we will officially commence our celebration at the start of the month. This, of course, will be coming right after the already momentous month of Birthday Bliss—a month that has brought with it the fruiting of a veritable tree of sadguna vaibhava, of virtues, in us and around us. And then later in July—on July 24, to be exact, one month to the day after Gurumayi’s Birthday—we will observe Bhagavan Nityananda’s lunar punyatithi.
What is a punyatithi? The word itself, punyatithi, is used specifically in reference to saints when they leave their physical body and merge into supreme Consciousness. Punya means “meritorious,” and tithi is “day” or “date.” In the Bhagavad Gita, Lord Krishna explains what death is to his disciple, Arjuna, drawing upon the analogy of a person shedding their well-worn clothes in favor of new garments.1 Similarly, on his punyatithi, Bhagavan Nityananda cast off his physical body and entered the vast, ineffable, yet deeply tangible divinity that composes this universe.
This time, therefore, of June into the whole month of July, is one of abundance on the Siddha Yoga path. And the abundance continues to build, and something about this feels absolutely right. It’s been my observation and experience on this path that as a person’s sadhana continues, they go from goodness to greatness—and from greatness to, well, even more greatness.
One of the central Siddha Yoga teachings is that God, the Guru, and the Self are one and the same. It’s a teaching that’s intrigued me all my life. No matter how much I’ve contemplated it, no matter how many times I’ve even been fortunate enough to have had direct experiences of the Truth inherent in it, I’ve found this teaching to remain as mystical as ever, as unknowable as it can be known. Luckily, this just means there is endless possibility for exploring the teaching further, for going deeper into it, for scoping out its many dimensions so that our sadhana may flourish all the more.
There are many ways we can do this, and one is worship of the Guru. Yet here, too, there is plenty of possibility, given that worship of the Guru can take many forms. If you are in the presence of the living Guru, then you have the chance to perform worship directly to the Guru. If you are not, then you have the altar you have created, with images of the Guru and all of your chosen articles of worship. There is also manasa puja, or “mental worship,” in which you visualize yourself performing worship to the Guru; you imagine all the ways in which you would honor and express your devotion to the Guru, and in so doing, you transform your own inner stance. You elevate it. You ensconce your mind in that which is gold, and you yourself become gold.
Now, what does it mean to worship the Guru? Who and what are we worshiping? And where does this worship lead? As we’re commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of Shri Guru Gita recitation this year, I’d like to take the support of this sacred text to answer these questions. In verse nine, Lord Shiva, the primordial Guru, explains to his beloved Parvati the nature of the Guru:
गुरुर्बुद्ध्यात्मनो नान्यत् सत्यं सत्यं न संशयः ।
तल्लाभार्थं प्रयत्नस्तु कर्तव्यो हि मनीषिभिः ॥
gurur buddhyātmano nānyat satyaṁ satyaṁ na saṁśayaḥ ।
tallābhārthaṁ prayatnas tu kartavyo hi manīṣibhiḥ ॥
The Guru is not different from the conscious Self.
Without doubt, this is the truth, this is the truth.
Therefore, wise beings should make an effort to seek the Guru.2
When we worship the Guru, therefore, we are worshiping our own Self. We are worshiping the Self of all things (whom we might also call God). In fact, there is a whole Upanishad—the Atmapuja Upanishad—that is dedicated to describing how each aspect of the outer worship we perform corresponds to a quality of the Self that we are simultaneously honoring. According to this text, offering flowers, for example, is a means of recognizing the beauty and light of the Self; waving incense honors the fire of awareness within; performing pradakshina is an homage to the movement that arises from the stillness of the Self within.
This Upanishad, and other scriptures and teachings like it, illustrate what is so potent and enthralling about worship—namely, how the outer ritual brings us closer, in a visceral sense, to the truth of who we are. Our worship propels any intellectual understanding we may have of the connection between God, the Guru, and the Self into the realm of experience, of living and breathing knowledge.
Earlier, I mentioned that there are many ways to have the experience of this truth that the Upanishads detail, and that Lord Shiva speaks of so beautifully in Shri Guru Gita. So, you may ask—in the spirit of ever-growing abundance, of amplifying that which is good, of adding proverbial fragrance to gold—what are some of these ways, in addition to worship?
We can look again to the Siddha Yoga practices. And since it’s such a favorite of everyone, let’s look specifically at the practice of namasankirtana, chanting the divine name. Chanting connects us with the sound vibration of God, a vibration we are awakened to by the Guru’s own shakti, and which somehow, amazingly, emanates from our own being. It is remarkable to think about—the sound that is created (or perhaps unearthed?) through chanting. There are so many sounds in this world, and not all of them are even audible to human ears. Some frequencies of sound are either too high or too low for us to hear; they are what scientists call ultrasonic and infrasonic sounds. Yet each of these sounds, whether or not we can hear it, has an effect on our being and on the wider world. Some sounds will raise our consciousness; others will be destructive to our consciousness. Siddha Yoga chanting is unique in that its vibrations encompass all frequencies of sound. And because of the sanctity inherent in the divine name—and the pure devotion of the devotees who chant that name—this sound cannot cause harm. It can only heal, and invigorate, and uplift.
Our love for the Guru’s teachings, and our wish and commitment to make those teachings our own, will also support us in understanding how God, the conscious Self, and the Guru are one. An otherwise nondescript moment is made luminous and transcendent and time-stoppingly expansive by the awareness we gain, the enhanced perception we acquire from what the Guru has taught. For example, when I see the moon waxing toward fullness, I linger a little longer these days than I might have done before. This is because the image reminds me of a teaching from Gurumayi, about how we can view the phases of the moon as a metaphor for sadhana. I’ve heard Gurumayi say that whether the moon appears as barely a sliver or it’s curved into a crescent or it’s rounded into perfect fullness, it is still the same moon. It is still lit by the sun, and even its dark side encompasses the sun’s light. Similarly, once you have received the grace of the Guru, then you always possess that light. That light does not change, and it cannot be diminished. It is yours.
So whether your meditation is very deep or rather short, whether your mood is swinging up or down, whether you feel like your life is going to plan or you’re facing one hurdle after another, you can always remember: this light is a constant.
Understanding and experiencing the true nature of our relationship to the Guru and God is, to put it plainly, what the Siddha Yoga path is all about. I must confess, however, that even with all the options we have for gaining this experience and understanding, I find I don’t need to think too much about which of them to choose. That’s because on the Siddha Yoga path, we can participate in satsang. Satsang has it all: worship of the Guru, study of the Guru’s teachings, engagement in the practices the Guru has imparted to us, and the continual reflection and assimilation through which the essence of satsang becomes part and parcel of our being.
Every year, as July approaches, I can’t help but feel that this month will be different from the rest, that it will have unique character. I like to imagine, somewhat fancifully perhaps, that the particles of the atmosphere are rearranging themselves to prepare for our honoring and worship of all the three Gurus.
So, yes: the month of July is going to be replete with auspiciousness. It is going to be graced by the Guru’s energy. It is going to be made magnetic by the orb of the full moon. In celebration of our Gurus, the Siddha Yoga path website will be featuring element after element of Siddha Yoga satsang for you to participate in. I love how Gurumayi is describing it—as a month-long satsang in honor of shubh Gurupurnima.
I remember once, in a darshan, Gurumayi likened satsang to the moon and the tides, her hands moving to emulate their graceful ebb and flow. Satsang, she said, takes you inside, and then you feel empowered and equipped to expand outward, to go about your life with greater assuredness, for example, and generosity of spirit. At the same time, you always know that you can return to your Self, to where the light of the Guru resides.
Another thing about satsang that I have learned from Gurumayi is that it is like the breath, the inhalation melding into exhalation before coming back again. It’s like the love you share with the Guru—you give love to the Guru, and you receive love from the Guru, and then that love you’ve received from the Guru transmutes to devotion, and you express that devotion to the Guru. You give and receive; you receive and you give. There’s love and more love, devotion and more devotion, and your Guru and you are together, and your Guru and you are one—and this two, this one, this newfound you is cradled in supreme love, profound peace.
This is what awaits you each day of July as you enter the satsang hall of the Siddha Yoga path website. It is an experience of particular enchantment, at once sensory and beyond what we can perceive with the senses, encapsulating the music of earth and the ether, the ultrasonic and the infrasonic. It spans the spectrum of both visible and invisible light, colors we’ve seen and those that exist in the in-betweens of our dreams. In satsang, something happens.
Now, at first glance when you visit the website, you may think that you’ve already read or heard or done whatever element of satsang you are encountering that day. Before you submit to such familiar (and, dare I say, boring) modes of thinking—before you let your preconceived notions of what you know and don’t know get the better of you—I want you to come with me, as it were, and let me remind you of something you may not have used in a while: your beginner’s mind.
What do I mean by this? Simply that you’d do well to approach the elements of satsang as though you’re hearing them for the first time, as though you are reading them for the first time, as though you are engaging with them for the first time ever. The Zen monk Shunryu Suzuki famously said, “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.” When we decide that we’ve learned all we have needed to learn, that we need only do something once to acquire all the knowledge we can from it, we deprive ourselves of so much good fortune. We stop ourselves from receiving more. We sap ourselves of our innate sense of wonderment.
Gurumayi has said, “The great thinkers have spoken about how freedom is not begotten once, for you to then have it forever. Freedom needs to be refreshed and protected every step of the way. Similarly, it is not that you do sadhana once and then you have the fruit of your sadhana forever. Sadhana is something that needs to be refreshed on a regular basis, and the fruit of sadhana needs to be protected every step of the way. You must safeguard your attainment.”
Those of you who have visited temples in India will know that when coming forward for the deity’s darshan, it is customary to drape a shawl or other piece of cloth over your outstretched palms to receive the deity’s blessings in the form of prasad. When the priest has placed the prasad in the little cradle you’ve created with your shawl, you then tuck the shawl into yourself, embracing the prasad close to your chest. Adopting a beginner’s mind prepares you to receive in this manner. This is doubly important because the manner in which you receive the Guru’s blessings informs the manner in which you offer your devotion and your service to the Guru. How you receive is how you offer.
There’s a story that a Siddha Yogi once shared with me. Her son, who was very young, had received a message of thanks from Gurumayi for several gifts he had given to her. He was sitting in his mother’s lap, eating dinner, when his mother shared this message with him. As she read out Gurumayi’s words, she felt him sink deeper and deeper into her lap, practically melting into it. When she finished reading the message, she asked her son if he wanted to reply. He told her that he would respond to Gurumayi after he had completed his dinner.
After dinner, then, he started to dictate his response. He stopped after a few seconds, his response seemingly complete. However, his mother felt that he was still holding within himself many feelings about what he wanted to convey to Gurumayi. So, she suggested to him a change of scenery—for example, their puja room. He immediately agreed and hopped up the stairs to this room.
Once he was there, he picked up a copy of Shri Guru Gita, then went over to sit on his meditation asana before announcing that he was going to read it. His mother watched curiously as he went quiet, suddenly absorbed in Shri Guru Gita. It was the first time she’d seen him give such attention to this text; though he was a beginning reader, he really seemed to be taking in the words. He even mumbled a few of them to himself.
After a few moments, she asked him if he was reading the wisdom in the book. He said yes and then began dictating a new response. He periodically paused to look at the book and seemed to go to some faraway place as he thought of what he wanted to say next.
His resultant response was lengthy and full of characteristic sweetness, mischief, and profundity. When his mother shared this response with me, there were two lines that I found to really stand out. First, he said: “Gurumayi, I feel powerful. You make me feel powerful.” And later: “Your love makes my love beautiful.”
I was moved by how this young child—who so perfectly exemplified the beginner’s mind—had such an intuitive understanding of the Guru and the Guru’s teachings. In this month that is dedicated to the Guru, I think it is worthwhile for us to remember what this little boy, in his ingenuousness, could so readily grasp. It is the Guru’s light that makes us shine. It is the Guru’s love that makes us feel loved.
It is my sincere wish that in the busy-ness of your life, you will—magically, fortuitously—find the time to participate in the satsang on the Siddha Yoga path website. You can consider it to be a personal retreat for yourself, your special time for worship. Satsang. Keeping the company of the Truth.
Now, what does this month-long satsang include? I’ll share some of what you can expect. There will be a story you can read and listen to, a namasankirtana to chant along with, the opportunity to receive the Guru’s darshan and teachings. You will be able to sing the arati, learn more about the practice of puja, and offer dakshina.
There is, however, one key practice of satsang that you’ll notice is not included as a stand-alone element, and that is Siddha Yoga meditation. This was a deliberate decision. If you take a moment to think about it, I am fairly certain that you will surmise the reason.
Still, your powers of deduction notwithstanding, I’ll go ahead and disclose that reason to you. Remember how I said before that each element of satsang takes you inward? Well—isn’t that the whole point of meditation? Going inward.
When you go inward in meditation, you have the experience of oneness. When you go inward in meditation, you are given the power to be. Meditation is happening all through the course of this month-long satsang—as you read a story, as you study the Guru’s teachings, as you chant in praise of the Guru and perform the arati. With each element of satsang, you are fortifying and enhancing the power of meditation within, and you are expanding the sphere of light around you.
This is in keeping with Gurumayi’s instructions to all practitioners of Siddha Yoga meditation. Yes, it is important to cultivate the discipline of meditating on a regular basis. At the same time, we do this so that we may better recognize that thread of meditation weaving through our day-to-day lives, so that we are always aware of that energy, so we can feel it pulsing at a hundred percent. The power of meditation isn’t restricted to your meditation room or to wherever it is that you choose to do your practice. Just as when you do physical exercise, the strength you gain becomes part of your body, so too when you practice meditation regularly, its fruits become intrinsic to your being. Gurumayi’s intention is that you have this awareness as you engage with each element of the satsang on the Siddha Yoga path website. And for this, it is important to remain aware of your breath. Your prana shakti is your guiding light.
Shri Guru Gita tells us:
ध्यानमूलं गुरोर्मूर्तिः पूजामूलं गुरोः पदम् ।
मन्त्रमूलं गुरोर्वाक्यं मोक्षमूलं गुरोः कृपा ॥
dhyāna-mūlaṁ guror mūrtiḥ pūjā-mūlaṁ guroḥ padam ।
mantra-mūlaṁ guror vākyaṁ mokṣa-mūlaṁ guroḥ kṛpā ॥
The root of meditation is the Guru’s form.
The root of worship is the Guru’s feet.
The root of mantra is the Guru’s word.
The root of liberation is the Guru’s grace.3
In Gurumayi’s Love,