Following satsang with the Shri Guru Gita text, the Birthday schedule—that had been created by the people—included a sumptuous breakfast prepared by the sevites in the Annapurna Kitchen. The aroma of all the delicious food they had cooked wafted outside Shri Nilaya, beckoning us to make our way to the Annapurna Dining Hall.
As we arrived—swaying in ecstasy from the recitation of Shri Guru Gita, the sounds of the mantras still resounding within—we were greeted by a spectacular array of colors, aromas, and shapes. The serving table, which stretched across more than three-quarters of the hall’s length, was laden with a breakfast feast worthy of this day.
We imagine that your curiosity must be building—you must be wanting to find out what was served during this feast! Well, we’ll share with you what we recall. First of all, there was the most renowned Siddha Yoga Ashram dish: savory cereal, fragrant with ginger and warm spices. There was also delectable muesli, dotted with fruit and plumped raisins. What else? Doughnuts—fried golden brown and dipped in sugar! Croissants—with a hazelnut-chocolate spread! Platters of gourmet cheese, in all varieties! Summer fruits—ruby-colored cherries, green and purple grapes, slices of golden mango! Tubs of butter and jams! And of course, steaming carafes of chai and Siddha coffee!
One staff member shared:
Everything looked and tasted so delicious. I have heard, and felt time and again, that you can taste in food the emotions that the cooks are experiencing when they prepare it. With each bite I was filled with more and more joy, more and more happiness. And I knew: surely, surely, the cooks had been experiencing deep joyfulness while creating this magnificent breakfast in celebration of Gurumayi’s birthday.
As we partook of this food, we could feel Gurumayi's love manifest. Just as singing the Morning Arati and reciting Shri Guru Gita had fortified our souls, so this breakfast nourished our bodies, so that we could give our best to Gurumayi’s day.
After breakfast, we began to transform Annapurna Dining Hall into a hall for the next element of Gurumayi’s Birthday Celebration. We swept the space, including all the corners and crevices, moved all the chairs and tables to another location, vacuumed the carpet, mopped the floors, and set up the logistical equipment for the soon-to-occur birthday cake-cutting ceremony.
Other parts of the Atma Nidhi building were abuzz as well, as we prepared, with happy expectancy, for Gurumayi’s imminent arrival. Many of us lined up in the Lower Lobby, Nidhi Chauk, and Annapurna Dining Hall, chanting Om Namo Bhagavate Muktanandaya in the Bhupali raga. There was such sweet anticipation in the air. We were ready to greet our beloved Gurumayi! The chanting sparkled with joy and devotion. One participant shared that she felt that through this loving energy of the chant, she was experiencing her own closeness to Gurumayi.
It seemed as if only a moment had passed since we had begun chanting when we heard that Gurumayi was about to arrive! She was walking up the path into Atma Nidhi that leads to the murti of Shiva Nataraja. One staff member recalled his experience in this way:
From a distance, I saw Gurumayi walking up the pathway toward the front doors of Atma Nidhi. In this instant my heart was simultaneously leaping with excitement and serenely still. I closed my eyes for a moment and bowed my head, paying homage to my Guru. This split second of silence, this opportunity for pranam, sent a ripple of shakti through my being, which carried me throughout the entire day. It was a highlight of the celebration for me!
Gurumayi kept walking toward Shiva Nataraja, and a few Siddha Yogis who were standing in front of the Ashram to welcome Gurumayi followed her. They all stood around Shiva Nataraja and joined in chanting Jaya Jaya Shiva Shambho, Mahadeva Shambho. The sky was cloaked with clouds. The air was pleasantly warm. The feather-like touch of the breeze was like a soft shield of grace. Under the benevolent gaze of the Lord, time stood still as the celebration of Gurumayi’s birthday gathered momentum.
Click here to read Part III