From the very first moments of the satsang, the children had been lively and active participants. They were all seated together at the front of the hall, and had been openly sharing their delight in celebrating the birthday of their beloved Guru. Among them was my eleven-year-old son, Tejas, who was visiting Shree Muktananda Ashram for the very first time. We had come as a family from our home in Karnataka, India.
All week my son had been telling me about a brilliant idea he and the other children had come up with for a gift to offer Gurumayi. They wanted to make a card on behalf of all the children in the world who love Gurumayi. I was so moved that he and the other children understood how precious it is to be in the presence of Shri Guru, and that they wanted to include children in other parts of the world who were also thinking of Gurumayi and sending her love on her birthday.
Now the moment had arrived! Meera announced that it was time for the children to offer their gift to Gurumayi. The children looked as if they were ready to bounce out of their seats with excitement.
All the children gathered eagerly around Gurumayi’s chair, creating a space in the middle for three children to present a huge card to Gurumayi. The card was in the shape of a heart and was painted with a map of the world. One child explained to Gurumayi that the heart-shaped world was to show Gurumayi the love that children all around the world have for her.
Gurumayi was completely focused on the child as he spoke. The children expressed such simple, pure-hearted bhakti, or devotion, to Gurumayi. I thought of how Lord Krishna describes pure-hearted devotion in the Bhagavad Gita. The Lord says:
He who offers to Me with devotion and a pure heart a leaf, a flower,
a fruit, or water, that offering of devotion I accept from him. 1
In his commentary on this verse, the poet-saint Jnaneshvar Maharaj
describes how there is no distinction between great and small when an offering is made with devotion; the Beloved is always ready to accept what the disciple offers when it comes from this pure space within. This is what I saw in the loving exchange between the children and Gurumayi. Gurumayi was responding to the gifts the children were offering with her own infinite love and enthusiasm. The bond between them was tangible.
In that moment I felt that the power of the Guru’s love extends out to reach the heart of every child, every person, wherever they are in the world. I remembered that devotion is one of the thirty Sadguna Vaibhava,
the virtues Gurumayi has chosen for each day of this wonderful month of Birthday Bliss
. This is what the children were offering so wholeheartedly: pure devotional love, bhakti
Meera shared the story behind the children’s gift. “At first, the children wanted to create an enormous heart-shaped room to hold all of their love for you, Gurumayi,” Meera said. “As they further developed their gift idea, they decided to create a card. They declared that they wanted to create ‘a big card’! And they were very specific about its design. The children put the world inside the heart and the heart inside the world.”
My son often tells me he wants to bring the Siddha Yoga path to the whole world. He says he wants to share the love he feels on the Siddha Yoga path with everyone. I could see how his wish was reflected in the card he had made with the other children.
Two young girls presented the children’s second gift.
As they came forward, Gurumayi’s eyes widened with interest. The other children made space for the girls to join them near Gurumayi’s chair. The girls were carrying a bamboo rod from which strings of cards were suspended like a row of hanging garlands. The cards in the top row were heart-shaped and spelled out the words “Happy Birthday, Gurumayi.” The cards below the hearts displayed shares from children from around the world, collected over the years by Taruna Poshana, the department in the SYDA Foundation that creates teaching and learning events for children.
A sevite read this share for everyone to hear. The six-year-old child had told his mother: “God is here and God is there. God is everywhere. Mom, you don’t need cell coverage. You don’t even need a phone. You can speak with Gurumayi any time.” A wave of laughter flowed through the hall and heads nodded in agreement.
I was amazed by the profound understanding of this six-year-old, who knew that the Guru’s love is all-pervasive. Once more I was learning from the children, who, with their clear-hearted perception, intuitively understood the essence of the Guru’s love.
Meera spoke about the shares from the children,
saying, “Gurumayi, these shares reflect what young generations are learning from your teachings, love, and grace.” Meera explained that both gifts fit together to create a three-dimensional card. Another sevite then placed the card-heart and the bamboo rod of hearts on a hand-painted stand the children had made to show how they fit together. It was amazing to see the children’s creative vision and how they had brought it to fruition as a birthday gift to Gurumayi.
Gurumayi asked who had put it all together and one of the children replied, “Susan and all the children.” Meera then introduced Susan Elfer, a visiting sevite who is a professional artist in New York City. Susan stood and a sevite handed her a microphone. She described how she had supported the children in their wonderful creation. Gurumayi thanked Susan and all the children, and then asked that the gifts be displayed in the lower lobby for everyone in Shree Muktananda Ashram to see and enjoy.
I could tell that the children didn’t want this moment to end. They were eager to share with Gurumayi, and Gurumayi gave them her undivided attention. A two-year-old boy was dancing around excitedly at Gurumayi’s feet, clapping his little hands to express his delight. When he toddled over to Gurumayi’s side table to see what was there, his mother reached out to contain him. But, with a motion of her hand, Gurumayi let the mother know that it was fine for the child to move around freely. Gurumayi gave him a brilliant smile. Her face was radiant as the sun and once more I felt the all-pervasiveness of Shri Guru’s love.
Before returning to their seats in the hall, the children offered pranam. Gurumayi reached out to two sisters and lovingly tickled the crowns of their heads. They knelt at Gurumayi’s feet, looking at her with so much love. Gurumayi said to the older sister, “You’re fourteen now; are you too old to hug?” Without a moment’s hesitation both girls stood up and embraced Gurumayi in a warm and loving group hug.
When the children were settled into their seats, Meera announced an offering to Gurumayi—my son and I had prepared a song. My son is studying Hindustani, or North Indian, classical music and I teach Carnatic, or South Indian, classical music.
Meera introduced the song as a lakshana gita in the Durga raga . A lakshana gita is a type of song that describes the character and qualities of a particular raga. The raga of this song evokes qualities of the Goddess Durga: majesty, elegance, valor, and fearlessness.
While Meera was introducing us, I brought to mind my own intention: to bring to Gurumayi the love of all the Siddha Yogis in India. A week before I arrived in Shree Muktananda Ashram, I had been offering seva in Gurudev Siddha Peeth. The day I left, I stood in Guru Chowk, opened my arms wide, and thought, “Gurumayi, I’m taking all of this with me. I’m taking all the love from your devotees, and the shakti of Gurudev Siddha Peeth, and bringing it to you.”
When we had rehearsed our song the day before, my son told me he was excited to sing for Gurumayi, but a little nervous at the thought of all the people in the hall. So he asked to be seated while we sang because he was afraid his legs would shake if he stood. A sevite from the Live Events Department advised him, “Just focus on Gurumayi and you won’t be nervous.”
The song came to a conclusion and the hall burst into applause. I could barely hear the clapping, though. I was drawn inside to a place of complete stillness. My son gazed at Gurumayi, basking in her loving smile.
Click here to read Part IV