To this day, I thank my lucky stars that I found my path, I found my Guru, and I have the good fortune to offer seva to Gurumayi.
One of my cherished memories is of offering seva for Gurumayi’s Maha Yatra—the Great Pilgrimage. The Maha Yatra, which was a continuous pilgrimage with many stops, began in Shree Muktananda Ashram in November 1995 and concluded in Shree Muktananda Ashram in June 1996. One of the stops of the Maha Yatra was the city of Lódź, Poland, in April 1996. Many Siddha Yogis and new seekers from Russia and other areas of Eastern Europe made their own pilgrimage to Lódź, to participate in satsangs with Gurumayi.
Gurumayi invited everyone attending these satsangs to accompany her on a pilgrimage to the Jasna Góra monastery located in the city of Częstochowa. Within the monastery is the Icon of Our Lady of Częstochowa, also known as the Black Madonna. The site is a national shrine in Poland and is a focus of worship for Roman Catholics and Orthodox Christians. Pilgrims come from all over Europe to pray to her, for she is known to perform miracles. The inner sanctum is dimly lit; the fragrance of frankincense, the perfume of flowers, and the sacred sounds of the mass fill the air. As Gurumayi walked through the shrine, she offered gifts and prayers to the Black Madonna.
The shrine lies within a compound of buildings and gardens. One of the features is a bell tower that stands 106 meters tall. From the top of the tower, visitors can see a magnificent view of the countryside. Gurumayi started to climb the narrow, winding staircase that led to the lookout. Thinking that Gurumayi would prefer some space as she climbed the stairs to the tower, I asked the group of Siddha Yogis present if they could wait a little before entering. After Gurumayi had taken a few steps up the stairs, a throng of tourists pushed through, apparently wanting to race to the top as quickly as their legs could carry them. Our group was now behind the crowd of tourists.
After Gurumayi had spent some time in the tower, everyone descended the stairway. Gurumayi turned to me and asked, “Wouldn't it have been better if the group of Siddha Yogis who have accompanied me to this monastery had come up the tower with me? After all, these are my people. These are my people!” By that time, the sun was out in full force and Gurumayi continued her walk, making her way to an expanse of lawn where she sat down and gave darshan.
I had to ensure, at that moment, that my mind didn’t berate me for the action I had taken. I needed to stay present to receive Gurumayi's guidance and darshan, and to continue carrying out my seva responsibilities.
Gurumayi's words, “These are my people,” entered my heart. I knew that to be one of Gurumayi's people is to be invited to make God our daily companion. This invitation was both enticing and quite daunting at the same time. I say “enticing” because what a great honor to receive such an exalted invitation to make God our constant companion! And I say “daunting” because I knew that this would require every fiber of my being to be reshaped by God's love.
As years went by, again and again I returned in my mind’s eye to the teaching Gurumayi gave me that day. I thought I had been doing the right thing by asking Gurumayi's people to keep their distance, to give Gurumayi space to climb the tower. Now I understand that Gurumayi wasn’t just speaking about the physical distance from her form: Gurumayi was propelling me to look deeply into my own approach to the divine. With this ongoing reflection, I have come to see that the more I dive into my own heart to explore its depths, the closer I feel to God and the Guru. It is a mysterious and ecstatic process that is in perpetual motion. There is a subtle intertwining of the inner and outer that is made possible by the elixir of grace.
I have often heard Gurumayi say that the Guru is closer to us than our very breath. This suggests to me that every in-breath and every out-breath pave the way for us to touch the divine. As I reflect back on the visit to Częstochowa, I remember the moment when Gurumayi slowly brought her hands together and lowered her head before the Black Madonna. When I saw this, I wondered if I would ever experience the depth of feeling, the reverence, and the perfection that I was witnessing. I know now that with every in-breath and out-breath, we are all invited into this sanctum sanctorum of the Heart, into the recognition that divinity and perfection exist within us and all around us.