In Step with the Heavenly Beat

An Account of Gurumayi’s Birthday Celebration

Shree Muktananda Ashram
June 23 – 24, 2015

Part VII

As we sang Shri Mahalakshmyashtakam with Gurumayi, the Temple was once again filled with the sacred sound of mantras. Anyone who has participated in a satsang with Gurumayi will be keenly aware that Gurumayi never allows us to remain in our familiar comfort zone for too long. As a Guru, as a teacher, Gurumayi’s intention and mission are to ensure that students, devotees, disciples, seekers, and followers wake up to their own great Self and make steady progress on the path.

Many of us have sung Shri Mahalakshmyashtakam countless times over the years. So as we sang the first round during this satsang, many of us must have certainly gone on “autopilot.” We had just begun the second round when I saw Gurumayi cue the drummer to start playing. I noticed that all the participants, hearing the rhythmic beat of the mridang, began sitting up a bit taller, and that their pronunciation of the mantras sounded clearer and more precise. In all my years as a Siddha Yoga musician and Siddha Yoga music teacher, I had never heard this hymn sung with rhythmic accompaniment. As we continued to sing, more percussionists joined the ensemble. The instruments rang with exuberance. camera motif There was absolute focus combined with pure delight.

Just when our singing reached a crescendo in the final verse, we received another ambrosial surprise. Gurumayi continued singing, leading us in a dynamic call and response of Mahalakshmi namo’stute, “Salutations to you, Mahalakshmi! I bow to you!”

What a glorious musical offering we were all making in worship of the divine Shakti! The myriad qualities of all eight forms of Shri Mahalakshmi were invoked within everyone in the Temple. I had the full conviction that each of the participants would continue to experience the fruits of singing this magnificent hymn with Gurumayi, in their daily lives at home and in their offering of seva.

Just when I thought nothing could be better than this, I saw Gurumayi’s hand gesturing for me to sit by the microphone closest to her chair. I immediately knew what this meant: Gurumayi was inviting me to join her in singing an alap, a melodic improvisation! As everyone else continued singing Mahalakshmi namo’stute, Gurumayi sang a phrase in the raga and I responded with another phrase. Back and forth we sang, our voices playfully spiraling high and low, creating a multilayered tapestry of sound. I felt I had entered a timeless space in which I was no longer the doer—I was literally the instrument of her grace.

At the peak of this marvelous chorus, as Gurumayi sang “namo,” she lengthened the “o” sound into “AUM.” Gurumayi raised her arms and with a circular gesture, invited everyone to join in singing the primordial sound AUM. As our voices merged with Gurumayi’s voice singing the sacred syllable, I felt that this eternal mantra was carrying Gurumayi’s blessings and love out into every corner of the universe. I thought that every sentient being and insentient object must surely be rejoicing in some way, on some level, in recognition of our beloved Guru’s birth—for the power of the mantra and the Guru’s grace transcend time and space.

With the reverberations of AUM lingering in the air, Gurumayi asked the musicians to play Om Namo Bhagavate Muktanandaya in the Dhani raga. As the harmonium began, Gurumayi said, “Yes, that’s it! Dhani raga to honor the amazing rain and thunder that we witnessed.”

In Indian classical music, the ragas—or melodic patterns—are associated with particular rasas as well as with natural cycles such as seasons and times of day. Dhani raga evokes great happiness, and is associated with the golden-green rice crops that appear after the seasonal rains begin.

In step with the heavenly beat, we began chanting this jubilant namasankirtana with great fervor. Gurumayi stood and, with a wave of her hand, exclaimed, “Dance, devis, dance! Dance, devas, dance!” In that moment, I felt that Gurumayi was acknowledging the transformation that had taken place within each of us. We were not the same participants who had walked into the Temple at the start of this Celebration Satsang. What a heavenly pilgrimage it had been!
And this yatra glorifying Gurumayi’s birth on this earth continued. As we all kept chanting, the participants were invited to form three dancing circles around Bade Baba. When I saw Gurumayi in one of the three circles, I knew that Bade Baba was no longer sitting in his divine seat. Truly, this was the dance of devis and devas, the dance of the divine light encircling the motif This evening the heavens had opened and graced us with a cosmic vision, and in honor of that vision we adorned the earth with the steps of our dance and the sounds of our voices. Singing and dancing, our praise uplifted the earth, and the earth beamed her smiles at the heavens. camera motif

In celebration of the birth of our beloved Shri Gurumayi, we had the great good fortune of participating in this mahapuja orchestrated by the heavens. I did my best to ensure that my mind, my heart, and my voice were fully present for this divine worship. Everything that took place both within me and in everyone who was in the Temple was so much more than any words in any language could encapsulate and articulate. Perhaps this is why in the Narada Bhakti Sutras, the sage Narada says:


Borrowing the sage’s word, I would like to say that our experience was anirvachaniyam, “inexpressible.”

As the dancing saptah reached its peak and Gurumayi arrived in front of Bade Baba’s padukas, we all naturally stood in place. It was then I noticed that the sun had set and the Temple was enfolded in twilight. As the light outside dimmed, the candles in the Temple glowed even more enchantingly, like lamps in a celestial realm. Just as I had this thought, I saw Gurumayi reach out her right hand for the silver arati lamp. My heart leapt—Gurumayi herself would be waving the arati lamp! Gurumayi lit the wicks, and raised the lamp. camera motif As she began waving the sacred flame before Bade Baba’s murti, we heard Gurumayi’s voice singing the opening notes of Jyota se Jyota Jagao in the key of A-flat—six steps higher than we usually sing it! Did I say before that we had reached the peak? Gurumayi always takes us to a new destination. I had the distinct experience that in that key, it was not we who were singing, it was the voices of the spheres.

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