To everyone’s delight, the celebration of Gurumayi’s Birthday—Janmadin ki Jay Jay!—continued on June 25 with another satsang. As we entered Shri Nilaya, we saw that one side of the hall had become a dance stage, with a murti of Shiva Nataraja placed next to the stage area.
We all stood as Gurumayi entered the hall and took her seat. The two hosts, Mallika Maxwell and Radhika Lishansky, greeted Gurumayi and led us in exclaiming, “Janmadin ki Jay Jay!”
Mallika and Radhika introduced themselves to us, and Mallika shared that they had both been hosting Siddha Yoga teaching and learning events since they were twelve years old. I smiled when I heard this; many years ago, when I offered seva with the Live Events Department, and when Mallika and Radhika were young teens, I had coached them in the role of satsang hosts. I was so happy to see them now, grown up and offering this seva with so much poise and ease.
After welcoming all the participants, Mallika and Radhika introduced Susan Foster, a visiting sevite from Virginia. They invited her to come forward and speak about a gift that she and her husband Mark had presented to Gurumayi in honor of Gurumayi’s birthday. The gift was a large, astonishingly detailed photograph of the full moon.
Mark had photographed the moon from his home observatory on the night of Gurupurnima 2015.
Susan read a letter that she and Mark had written to Gurumayi, describing the intricate process by which Mark had created this photo. He had taken 96 separate images of the moon. Over several months and with meticulous care, he pieced them together seamlessly and printed the photo on metal so it would show up as vividly as possible.
Susan shared that the full moon is especially significant for Mark because he had received shaktipat initiation from Gurumayi thirty years ago on the full-moon summer solstice on June 21, 1986. She read, “Mark says he will never forget the magnificent full moon rising over Shree Muktananda Ashram that evening; it was as though he were seeing the moon for the very first time! A symbol of the unfathomable and inconceivable gift of grace! Thank you, thank you, thank you! With love, Susan and Mark.”
As we gazed at the exquisite photo and listened to Susan read the beautiful letter, I felt that all of us could appreciate—and completely relate to—the profound gratitude this disciple experienced upon finding his Guru and receiving her grace.
The hosts then announced that there would be a performance of two dances by Lavanya Mavillapalli. I remembered reading on the Siddha Yoga path website that last year Lavanya had offered a beautiful dance for Gurumayi in honor of her birthday. I was delighted to learn that she would dance again this year, and I was filled with anticipation. From the age of three, Lavanya has been a disciplined student of Bharatanatyam dance—a classical South Indian art form known for its ability to convey deep spiritual truths through movement.
The hosts invited Lavanya’s husband, Aditya, to introduce the dances.
Aditya explained that Lavanya’s mother and father had been her lifelong mentors and dance teachers, and that the dances we would now be seeing had been choreographed by Lavanya’s father, who also composed the music.
Aditya then introduced their eight-year-old son, who recited the Shiva dhyana shloka while performing mudras, or hand gestures, which “spoke” the meaning of the shloka. He had learned the mudras from his mother, who in turn had learned them from her parents. It was beautiful to see this young boy perform this traditional form of art and worship, which has been passed down through three generations.
This Shiva dhyana shloka says:
He, whose body is the entire universe,
whose word is all of language and literature,
whose ornaments are the moon and the stars—
to Him, the supreme Shiva, we bow.
Aditya then told us that for her second dance, Lavanya would be enacting a bhajan, Maiyya Mori, that tells a story of the playful and lovable bala Krishna, or baby Krishna. This bhajan, written by Saint Surdas, describes the sweet banter between Lord Krishna and his mother, Yashoda, who has caught him with butter smeared all over his face and a broken butter pot. And yet Shri Krishna insists:
“Maiyya Mori meinayhee makhan Khaayo!”
“O Mother, I did not eat the butter!”
As Aditya told us the story, Lavanya demonstrated the different gestures she would be performing in her dance. Finally, with Yashoda not relenting to any of his arguments, Lord Krishna hands his mother a stick and says, ‘Go on, Mother. Punish me if you don't believe me!’”
“This melts his mother’s heart and, hugging her little one, she says, ‘Oh darling, I believe you now. You did not eat the butter! Tu nahin makhan khayo!’”
“With an impish grin, Krishna says, ‘Maiyya Mori meinayhee makhan Khaayo! It is indeed I who ate the butter!’”
When the performance concluded, Gurumayi applauded and we all leaped to our feet and gave Lavanya a standing ovation. As a dancer and choreographer myself, I understood that Lavanya had just shown us what mastery in one’s craft looks like. I felt honored to witness her dance; she performed with incredible devotion, and her technique was exquisite. Every movement, every gesture, every flash of her eyes and tilt of her head indicated that she was embodying the characters she portrayed. She was an actor as well as a dancer. Her performance was commanding, and thrilling to watch. After the dance, the hosts invited Lavanya’s family to join her on the stage. On behalf of Gurumayi, Manju didi Kochhar and I came forward with gifts. Manju didi presented a shawl to Lavanya, and I presented her with a garland and a bouquet of flowers.
Gurumayi smiled at Lavanya, Aditya, and their son.
“Beautiful dance, beautiful reading, and beautiful demonstration. So much love, so much devotion. And we worshiped Lord Shiva, we worshiped Lord Krishna. So what is Lord Shri Rama feeling?” Gurumayi laughed and turned to the music ensemble. Taking their cue from Gurumayi, the music ensemble began to play the melody of Shri Ram Jay Ram
in the Malkauns raga
. The chant soared, majestic and stirring.
It was a fitting paean to the valorous, righteous, and endlessly compassionate Lord Rama.
As the namasankirtana culminated, we rose to sing Jyota se Jyota Jagao. After the arati, Gurumayi said, “Zeal! A robust arati,” and laughed. “Lavanya, you brought so much zeal into Shri Nilaya!”
Gurumayi invited Lavanya to speak about her parents and the role they had played as her teachers. Lavanya said that the love for classical dance as a mode of worship has been very strong in the family, and that her parents traveled the world as cultural ambassadors of India.
They dedicated their lives to the art of Indian dance. Lavanya said, “I used to tour with my parents as a dancer, and I’ve been performing for many years now.” Then Lavanya bowed her head to Gurumayi and, placing her hand on her heart, said, “Gurumayi, I have danced on many stages, but when I dance here, it is different. Here, you dance, Gurumayi; I don’t.”
Gurumayi said to Lavanya, “Yesterday, when you were offering the arati, it was so beautiful. So much love, and gratefulness, and graciousness—it was as if all the virtues came alive. I just loved it.”
With a huge smile, Gurumayi said, “It has been the best birthday!”
After a few moments of the sweetest silence, Gurumayi gave a talk in which she imparted her teachings and guidance for all of us. We listened with rapt attention.
As the satsang was concluding, Gurumayi said, “There will be a Shri Guru Gita recitation tomorrow in the Bhagavan Nityananda Temple. And Swami Ishwarananda will have a special announcement to make!”
Click here to read Part XI