I recently observed the seventh anniversary of my father’s passing. Each year at this time I recall with great fondness my father’s loving presence. It is also a time when I especially turn to and value the mantra of the Siddha Yoga lineage, Om Namah Shivaya—one of the greatest gifts that Gurumayi bestows upon us.
When I first started practicing the Siddha Yoga teachings as a teenager, I created a puja in my bedroom. Years later, when I moved out of my parents’ house, my parents maintained the puja. In fact, my father, who considered himself a friend of Siddha Yoga but was not himself an active Siddha Yoga student, used to adorn it with fresh flowers. He often took photos of the puja and sent them to me.
Before I left for the United States to offer seva full time in Shree Muktananda Ashram, my father asked me to teach him how to perform puja. He said he had noticed me waving incense as an offering, and would like to continue the tradition. I was very touched by his desire to honor Gurumayi in this way. I was also surprised that he had noticed the rituals of worship with which I concluded my day. I briefly explained to him about the mantra and showed him how to wave the incense while repeating Om Namah Shivaya.
In 2004, I returned to visit my parents in my hometown in Brazil. During this visit, my father came into the bedroom and, standing by the puja, told me that he had continued to perform puja, repeating the mantra and waving incense to Gurumayi. He said he would repeat “Om Mana Shivaya, Om Mana Shivaya” very attentively and, after several minutes, “these waves of energy start to arise inside of me and spread all over my body. I often am covered with goose bumps but I am not cold at all! Then I just really like to sit down here and stay quiet for some time. Does this happen to you?”
My dad’s eyes were sparkling and he looked serene. I was amazed as I recognized the deep effect this practice had been having on him. I kept thinking, “I need to place the correct words of the mantra by the puja, so he knows how to repeat Om Namah Shivaya.” However, something inside of me knew to not focus on correcting my father’s pronunciation right then. Instead, I once again repeated the words of the mantra. I told him how the mantra is alive with Gurumayi’s energy and can awaken one’s very own divine energy. Dad nodded. I realized it all made sense to him, since this was what he had been experiencing.
A few days after I returned to the Ashram, I saw Gurumayi. I shared that I had just returned from visiting my family in Brazil, and I told her about my father’s experience of the mantra. Gurumayi looked at me in such a way that it seemed like she was looking inside my heart. She paused for some time, and then asked me whether I knew what the Sanskrit word mana meant. When I said I didn’t, she explained that mana means “mind.” When my father repeated “Om Mana Shivaya,” it was as if he were repeating “My mind is Shiva, my mind is pure.” With a gentle smile she said, “Don’t worry about it, it is fine. This is his mantra.”
I understood that my father’s genuine efforts in repeating the mantra as an act of worship had delivered to him these sweet and transforming fruits and my heart became moist with profound gratitude.
In 2008 my father passed away. I was with my family in Brazil, and the night before he passed away my sister and I were in the room with him. He indicated he would like to pray with us and when I asked which prayer, he said he wanted us to repeat the mantra together. For about 45 minutes the three of us engaged in mantra japa, repetition of the mantra, out loud. Dad’s voice was very soft, and I could not tell whether he was repeating namah or mana as our voices blended into one beautiful sound.
The next day he passed away peacefully. The serene manner in which he left was particularly significant as my father was only 54 years old and had been struggling greatly with the fact that he was dying. In his last hours I saw how the mantra was there for him in a time of great need and had supported this most important event of his life.
Over the years I have remembered this experience again and again. The blessings I receive from Gurumayi extend to my family and friends in simple, ordinary ways as well as in the most dramatic of circumstances.
I am forever grateful to my beloved Gurumayi, whose grace shines unconditionally for the benefit of all.