Celebrating Gurumayi’s Birthday

An Account by Elizabeth Greig
Shree Muktananda Ashram
June 24, 2013

Happy Birthday, Gurumayi! A glorious Happy Birthday to you!

I was honored to be the host for Gurumayi’s Birthday Celebration Satsang held in Shri Nilaya in Shree Muktananda Ashram.

During the satsang Gurumayi remembered the global Siddha Yoga sangham with so much sweetness and love that everyone in Shri Nilaya experienced the presence of all the Siddha Yoga devotees around the world. We felt that all of Gurumayi’s devotees were truly celebrating her Birthday together. I thought of my friends who had wished to be in Gurumayi’s physical presence to celebrate and offer gratitude to Gurumayi. I knew they were remembered and were receiving Gurumayi’s love and blessings. I cherish this experience with all my heart.

Gurumayi launched the Birthday Bliss 2013 month of June on the Siddha Yoga path website by giving us darshan and also giving us the Gallery of Virtues, which has revealed one divine virtue every day.

The virtue for June 24 is smarana, constant remembrance. Most definitely for me and all Siddha Yogis, Gurumayi’s Birthday is a day of smarana. We remember receiving shaktipat from Gurumayi. We remember the transforming power of her love and teachings. We remember how, by following Gurumayi’s guidance, each day of our lives becomes a golden day. By holding the awareness that we are receiving Gurumayi's grace and blessings in every moment, we are able to go through each day with easefulness and understanding.

Even though I have been aware of what it means to have Gurumayi as my Guru and of her immense contribution to this world, a highlight of the Celebration Satsang for me was hearing talks about Gurumayi’s life and work, given by three Siddha Yoga Swamis.

Swami Vasudevananda spoke about who Gurumayi is and who Gurumayi is for her devotees—for you and for me. Swamiji said that Gurumayi is a jagadguru, a teacher for the whole world, who awakens seekers to the most sacred knowledge: the awareness of God within us and all of creation.

“Who is Gurumayi to you?” Swamiji asked, and he invited everyone to contemplate throughout the day how Gurumayi has illumined our lives.

As I practiced this contemplation, I found it was not a difficult exercise at all! Memories, experiences, and insights kept flooding into my awareness. It was so sweet and invigorating.

Swami Apoorvananda spoke about Gurumayi’s philanthropic initiatives, which have transformed countless lives. These initiatives include The PRASAD Project, Muktabodha Indological Research Institute, and the Prison Project, to name just a few.

Swamiji shared his experience offering seva with PRASAD’s Netraprakash eye camps in India, in which doctors came from around the world to perform cataract surgeries, restoring the eyesight of thousands of villagers.

He said,

I have always been amazed at the scope of Gurumayi’s philanthropic work, and also how Gurumayi has taught us, as sevites, to accomplish it: with respect and love and with great care for every detail.

He illustrated this with the words of a villager whose sight had been restored. Describing her experience of the eye camp, she said, “If you want to know how to love, just watch how these people treat us.”

Having done relief work with refugees before I met Gurumayi, I found it very moving to come to a spiritual path in which my Guru is doing work that benefits humanity in such a tangible way, uplifting people’s hearts and minds as much as their physical circumstances. Therefore, the work of PRASAD is very close to my heart.

Swami Ishwarananda spoke about the transformative power of Gurumayi’s teachings. He asked everyone, “How have Gurumayi’s teachings changed your life?” and he gave his own example of how putting into practice one single teaching from Gurumayi had transformed his life: “I began to experience in the midst of everyday activity the bliss of the Self shining through.”

Swamiji also shared how rare it is to meet a Guru who can awaken one’s inner divinity and give guidance for walking the path to liberation. How fortunate we are that we have found Gurumayi and that we have the willingness to follow her teachings.

Swami Ishwarananda’s words resounded within me, and my heart’s response was “Yes! Yes! I am fortunate and I am grateful.”

After these informative, heart-opening talks by the three radiant Swamis, there was a brief pause in the satsang. As the pause concluded, I saw Gurumayi walking into Shri Nilaya. My heart was beating to the rhythm of the joyous celebration as my eyes had darshan of my Guru. As I looked around the hall, I knew that each person was experiencing the bliss of darshan. In the ocean of darshan we are all one; all hearts bathe in the Guru’s love.

Since, as satsang host, I happened to be standing in front of the microphone when Gurumayi took her seat, I spoke on behalf of everyone saying, “Gurumayi, we love you!”

Gurumayi smiled so sweetly, and everyone beamed back their smiles even more brightly as they filled the hall with thunderous applause. The love between the Guru and her devotees was palpable. My wish is that we all remember this truth forever.

The icing-on-the-cake moment came when Gurumayi made a sweeping motion with her arms as though she were embracing all our hearts with her own heart. As we watched closely, we could see Gurumayi was tracing the shape of a huge heart. It was so beautiful. Some people began to move their arms in harmony with Gurumayi’s graceful motions, embracing the space of Consciousness while creating heart shapes in the air.

Gurumayi then invited everyone to join in making these heart-shaped arcs together. As we sculpted heart shapes in silence, I had the distinct experience that the Guru-disciple relationship is sacred and eternal. And I know that anytime I want to feel a tangible connection with Gurumayi, I can take action: by simply moving my arms in the shape of a heart—either physically or in my mind—I will experience that my Guru and I are one.

Very soon, the silence in Shri Nilaya was transformed into blissful sound. Phylicia Rashad, a Siddha Yogi and acclaimed actress, led everyone in “A Song of Jubilation—Happy Birthday, Beloved!” This song was composed for Gurumayi in 1997 by Ann Hampton Callaway, a Siddha Yogi who is a well-known singer.

Jubilation then took on a wonderful new form as Kara Miller, a Siddha Yogi who is an assistant professor in theater and dance at the University of Hawaii, performed a dance she had created especially for this satsang. Her dance embodied and expressed Gurumayi’s talk for Birthday Bliss 2013, Millions of Blissful Moments. With graceful exuberance Kara danced throughout the hall, a luminous smile on her face as she vividly evoked the elements of nature and the bliss that Gurumayi wishes for all her devotees.

Kara concluded her dance by gesturing for everyone to rise for Jyota se Jyota Jagao. What a perfect moment it was for everyone to express their gratitude to Gurumayi on this special, very special, most special day. Thank you, Gurumayi!

Following the arati, the devotees’ gratitude soared even higher as we heard Gurumayi begin to sing AUM, the primordial sound, and everyone joined in. The vibrations of AUM flowered into Om Namo Bhagavate Muktanandaya in the Dhani raga. It was another blissful moment to experience oneness with the Guru, express our thanks to Gurumayi, and resolve to follow the Siddha Yoga path—as the Indian saints say—with all our being and all our awareness.

The melodious music continued to flow through Shri Nilaya as Stefan Hoskuldsson, a Siddha Yogi and professional flautist, played his flute while we sat in silence and meditated with Gurumayi. Every heart was pulsing with love, love, and more love. Every heart was meditating with the vibrations of gratitude.

Completing meditation and re-entering physical reality was sweet and easeful, as Gurumayi spoke these Sanskrit words, “Satyam shivam sundaram”: Truth, auspiciousness, and beauty. When I heard Gurumayi utter these words, I remembered another occasion on which Gurumayi had explained their meaning. Gurumayi had said:

Satyam shivam sundaram is one of the ways to describe what God is like. Satyam means God is the Truth. Shivam means God is auspicious. Sundaram means God is beautiful.

Gurumayi thanked each and every Siddha Yogi for their contributions to the Birthday celebration and Birthday Bliss 2013 month. For me, receiving Gurumayi’s thanks warmed my heart in the same way it is warmed when I receive Gurumayi’s prasad.

As the satsang drew to a conclusion, I invited Gurumayi to the birthday cake–cutting ceremony. The magnificent cake, created by the sevites as their offering of gratitude to Gurumayi, was displayed in Nidhi Chauk, the space right outside
Shri Nilaya. These were the main features of the cake:

  • The colors of the foundational layer reflected the colors in the Gallery of Virtues from the Siddha Yoga path website.
  • Nine lotuses emerged from this foundation.
  • Gurumayi’s Message for 2013, Mantra Japa, was represented by rudraksha beads made of chocolate and five japa malas, strung with different kinds of beads, placed between the birthday candles.
  • The cake was crowned with a crystalline heart, symbolizing the light of the Supreme Self.

I loved watching Gurumayi admire every feature of the cake. I felt I was learning anew how to put into practice Gurumayi’s teaching about satyam shivam sundaram. As Gurumayi gazed at the cake, I could experience Gurumayi receiving the disciples’ true love for the Guru—satyam. I could experience Gurumayi feeling the auspiciousness vibrating in this cake created as an offering to the Guru—shivam. I could hardly contain my delight as I watched Gurumayi appreciate the beauty of her birthday cake—sundaram.

Satyam shivam sundaram was encapsulated for me when I heard Gurumayi begin to chant Om Namah Shivaya. Mantra japa came alive. It scintillated before my eyes. This came as a sweet surprise since my heart was already brimming with joy, joy, and more joy. I found myself wrapped in the particles of the mantra as everyone joined Gurumayi in mantra japa. I recalled a beautiful phrase that I have heard on the Siddha Yoga path over the years: it was like adding fragrance to gold.

Gurumayi concluded chanting the mantra and, after a moment of silence, to everyone’s delight Gurumayi gently moved the cake knife through the layers of the cake. As Gurumayi placed a huge slice of cake on a plate, she counted “One, two, three, four, five, six.” In that moment I wondered, “Why is Gurumayi counting the layers?” Then lo and behold, Gurumayi again demonstrated satyam shivam sundaram by saying that the six layers of the cake represented the six syllables of the mantra Om Namah Shivaya.

Anyone who knows Gurumayi’s way of celebrating every day and every holiday knows that you can always expect more. I’ve been following the Siddha Yoga path for twenty-three years, and I’ve had hundreds and thousands of opportunities to attend satsangs with Gurumayi. Every single time that I’ve thought the satsang was concluding, there was something more…

I concluded the Birthday satsang by inviting everyone to partake in Gurumayi’s celebration lunch and extending Gurumayi’s invitation for all to have darshan in the Bhagavan Nityananda Temple. There was a celebratory “Sadgurunath Maharaj ki Jay!” Then, guess what? Gurumayi surprised all the Siddha Yoga Swamis by requesting them to sing Nirvanashatkam. The Swamis sprang to their feet and moved to the front of the hall with such dignity and gratefulness, it was as though they had prepared to offer this Birthday gift to Gurumayi on this satyam shivam sundaram day. Happy Birthday, Gurumayi!

That afternoon in Shree Muktananda Ashram, nature celebrated Gurumayi’s Birthday with thunder, lightning, and a splendid rainbow.

May Birthday Bliss continue, as it manifests in millions of blissful moments in the life of every Siddha Yogi.

Salutations to Shri Gurumayi Chidvilasananda!

Sadgurunath Maharaj ki Jay!

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