Sooooooo, after Swami Ishwarananda’s moving talk on satsang, Gurumayi asked us all to turn to our neighbors and extend to them her thanks. Gurumayi explained that this is what she does internally—she thanks all of us. Gurumayi said that if she were to thank each person present in the hall on this day, however, it would take up the entire morning—and perhaps longer! So, because we had all contributed to creating the birthday celebration schedule, Gurumayi included us in offering this most incredible seva of extending thanks on her behalf. It was Gurumayi’s way to unite us.
The energy moving in the hall from the participants was palpable and audible. It. Was. Beautiful. To watch, to hear, and to do.
We turned to our neighbors on the left. We turned to our neighbors on the right. We embraced each other; we walked up to those in front of us, behind us, around us and thanked each other on Gurumayi’s behalf. We craned our necks to see who we wished to thank next. It was a remarkable experience, to offer thanks as we imagined Gurumayi does, with full hearts, with clear intent, with such kindness and niceness. We all felt understood and appreciated. It’s hard to put in words what that acknowledgment meant to each one of us.
Recalling this part of the satsang, one visiting sevite shared:
Through giving and receiving thanks, I experienced that Gurumayi’s love and compassion for each and every one of us is so expansive and immense, so strong and pervading. It reaches the entire world. I experienced a great amount of gratitude for having a living Guru in my life.
We could have continued to thank each other in this manner for the rest of the day! However, we heard Swami Ishwarananda inviting us to return to our seats.
Once we had done so, Swami ji turned to Gurumayi and said, “Thank you, Gurumayi, for your Message of 2018—Satsang—and for teaching us how to experience satsang in any moment. Happy Birthday! We love you!”
We all sat quietly, savoring the power of satsang and the heart-to-heart connection we had experienced while offering Gurumayi’s thanks as a gift to one another.
Swami Akhandananda then took his place at the podium and introduced the next delicious element of the satsang: meditation.
As you will recall, each year we study the Sadguna Vaibhava, the virtues given by Gurumayi for the month of Birthday Bliss. And each year, Gurumayi gives a special virtue for the day of her birthday.
Swami Akhandananda led us in a dharana on these sadguna. He spoke about the virtue of gratitude, and he especially expounded on karmaṇyatā, the virtue that Gurumayi had given for her birthday this year, June 24, 2018.
Following Swami ji’s dharana, we all meditated for several minutes. In Siddha Yoga meditation, we have the realization of the deep stillness, the profound silence, that is part and parcel of all the activities that take place in the waking state. We experience it as the substratum of existence. We do Siddha Yoga sadhana to fortify this awareness and ensure it manifests in all our duties and interactions.
Now, the next element of the satsang was one that was much-awaited. Remember, on June 23, when Gurumayi invited all the people present in Shri Nilaya to prepare the birthday celebration satsang schedule? Gurumayi had expressed one wish, which was for there to be a telling of clean jokes. In this way, everybody would perform a wonderful practice on her birthday: laughter. It would be a birthday gift that everyone would give to each other on Gurumayi’s behalf.
The segment began with two young adults, Mallika Maxwell and Giri Barahona, presenting quotations about laughter. Both Mallika and Giri have been offering seva for the Taruna Poshana Department for many, many years with great discipline and dedication. Taruna Poshana is the department that oversees teaching and learning events for children, young people, and families around the world.
Mallika and Giri began reading the following quotations:
“When you laugh, you get a glimpse of God.”
“Laughter is a sunbeam of the soul.”
“We don't laugh because we're happy—we're happy because we laugh.”1
Just as the third quotation was being read, we suddenly saw Urmi Bhatt, a visiting sevite who has been practicing the Siddha Yoga teachings since 1973, strutting up to the speakers, waving one arm and looking very determined. “Hey! Hey!” Urmi said in a loud voice. “I have a question for you.”
This took participants completely by surprise! “What is it, Urmi ji?” the speakers asked inquisitively.
Urmi ji asked, “Why did Swami Kripananda throw butter out the window?”
“We don’t know.” The speakers responded. “Why did Swami Kripananda throw butter out the window?”
“Because she wanted to see the butter fly!” Urmi then walked away in the direction of a large glass window in Shri Nilaya, fluttering her arms high above her head in a dramatic imitation of a butterfly.
This set off a wave of laughter which only grew bigger and bigger and bigger over the next ten minutes as many more clean jokes were told. Groups of four or five joke-tellers would come to the front of the hall, tell their joke, and then zip away as another group took their place. It was nonstop comedy, punctuated by jaunty riffs on the keyboard, dramatic drumrolls—and of course, laughter.
There were short jokes, long jokes, jokes for all ages. They came in wave upon wave—like our laughter.
“How do all the oceans say hello to each other?”
“I don’t know, how do they?”
“What do you call a belt made of watches?”
“A waist of time!”
“What do you call a factory that only makes good products?”
“Why was the math book so sad?”
“It was so full of problems!”
“The other day I was with my six-year-old son when suddenly he said, ‘Dad, why are we here?’”
“‘What a deep question!’” I thought. ‘This child wants to know the meaning of life!’ So I said to him, “Well, son, the universe was formed by space and warped time, which then became life, and after life people were born and you were also born. Do you understand?”
“Let me try to re-paraphrase...”
“No, dad. Why are we here? Didn't we have to pick up mom at the airport an hour ago?”
“I think my husband is wrong-minded.”
“Last night I asked him, ‘Why do we have a strange baby in our crib?’
And he said, ‘Well, you told me to change the baby!’”
“Why does everyone say, ‘Break a leg’ when you go on stage?”
“I don't know.”
“Because every play has a cast!”
“How do you make gold soup?”
“I don't know.”
“You add twenty four carrots!”
“Why isn’t a koala considered a real bear?”
“Because it is not koala-fied!”
“What is a dog that meditates?”
“I'm sure my aunty, wherever she is, is looking down upon us.”
“Oh, that’s so sweet.”
“Oh, she's not dead. She's condescending.”
“Miss Cohen, your check payment came back.”
“Doctor, so did my arthritis.”
“A businessman went into an office and found an inexperienced handyman painting the walls. This handyman was wearing two heavy parkas on a hot summer day. Thinking this was a little strange, the businessman asked the handyman, ‘Why are you wearing these parkas on such a hot day?’”
“Oh, I am just following the instructions on this can of paint. It says, 'For best results, use two coats!’”
“How do trees get on the internet?”
“They log in.”
“I am Emperor Akbar.”
“And I am Birbal, his wise and trusted minister.”
“Well, Birbal, I have a question for you. You know for years and years—in fact, for decades—we have been searching for our foremost foe, and we have still not been able to find him. Why is that?”
“It is quite simple. It is because we are Mughal, not Google.”
“During King Arthur's time, one of the knights collected taxes.”
“What was his name?”
A group of golfing buddies, all in their forties, discussed where they should meet for lunch. Finally, it was agreed they would meet at Smithie's diner because it was close to the golf course and the waiters and waitresses were fast and efficient.
Ten years later, in their fifties, the golfing buddies again discussed where they should meet for lunch. Finally, they agreed that they would meet at Smithie's diner because the food and the service were good and there were televisions to watch sporting events.
Ten years later, in their sixties, the golfing buddies met again and discussed where they should go for lunch. They unanimously decided again Smithie's diner. Why? Because the parking is free and the food is of value.
Ten years later, in their seventies, they discussed again where they should meet for lunch. Finally they decided that they would meet at Smithie's, because the restaurant was wheelchair accessible and they could dine in peace.
Ten years later, in their eighties, the friends discussed where they should meet for lunch. Finally, it was agreed that they would meet at Smithie's diner because they had never been there before.
“So, a man asks a farmer, ‘Sir. Would you please let me cut across your field so that I don’t have to run all the way around it? I have to get the 4:20 train.’
The farmer said, ‘Go for it, and if my bull sees you, you may get the 4:05!’”
“Did you know that French fries were not actually made in France?”
“They were made in grease.”
“Okay, what do you call a bear with no teeth?”
“A gummy bear.”
“A man is sitting in his house and all of a sudden, he hears a knock. He opens the door and sees a snail on the ground. He picks up the snail and throws it as far as he can. A year later, the man is in his house, he hears another knock. He opens the door and once again, the snail is there.”
“Same snail. He picks up the snail, and the snail says, ‘What was that all about?’”
“Did you hear about the race between the lettuce and the tomato?”
“Oh, well, the lettuce of course was in the lead and the tomato then thought, ‘I better ketchup.’”
“So, why did the bird go to the hospital?”
“I don't know.”
“To get a tweet-ment!”
“Have you heard about the new restaurant in Hurleyville? It’s called Karma. There is no menu; you just get what you deserve.”
One of the joke-tellers recalled:
Most of us had never been on stage professionally—and for several of us, standing up to tell jokes was well outside our comfort zone. Still, I don’t think anyone hesitated to say yes—YES!—to this opportunity. We wanted to express our joy, to laugh and make others laugh, and, most of all, to celebrate our beloved Gurumayi’s birthday in the way she had asked us to. We were ready and eager to make our offering.
A visiting sevite shared:
As I watched Gurumayi laugh and looked around at everyone in the hall laughing—and as I noticed myself laughing too—I found that my whole being was smiling. My whole being was truly happy. It was a transformative experience—by laughing I was able to connect with the joy that is always within my heart. I felt free. I’ve since been making an effort to welcome laughter, and laugh more myself.
And this is what a staff member had to say:
As I have been contemplating laughter since Gurumayi’s birthday, I have come to understand that beneath the laughter there is great bliss. This bliss is both still and effervescent, like the bioluminescence of glistening sea stars visible on the beach at night. If I take the time to remember Gurumayi’s teachings in her Message talk—to “Pause and connect” with the Truth—then I can find my happy spot in any given moment; it is actually effortless.
We felt complete by this point in the birthday celebration.
We felt we had received all there was to receive.
We felt we were one family.
We felt a sense of accomplishment in having fulfilled Gurumayi’s birthday request.
We felt submerged in the ocean of bliss.
Time stood still.
Soon, however, out of the subtle silence that had descended upon Shri Nilaya, we heard the sound of mantras…
Click here to read part VII