The Indian scriptures speak at length about the power of the Guru’s words—how the Guru’s words are coursing with grace, how what the Guru says can and does come to fruition. In the Shiva Sutra, there is this aphorism: katha japah. “Whatever the Guru says is mantra.” I’ve had the immense privilege to see the truth of this sutra manifest time and again before my own eyes. The “Be in the Temple” satsangs, which have been taking place in the Siddha Yoga Universal Hall since March 2020, are an excellent example.
At the start of this year, during a satsang in Shree Muktananda Ashram on January 2, Gurumayi requested that the leadership of the SYDA Foundation (many of whom were present that day) ensure that live video stream satsangs be held in the Universal Hall—and that they be held with frequency. The leadership wholeheartedly agreed to do this. And when they did, people in the satsang felt reassured, because the leadership would make sure that Gurumayi’s request was carried out.
I’ll explain why Gurumayi had made this request. During Sweet Surprise the previous day, January 1, there were periods when the live video stream dropped off for many participants. This was not the first time this had happened during a live video or audio stream on the Siddha Yoga path website. People in the sangham had been voicing their consternation, and understandably so—they didn’t want to miss even one moment of Siddha Yoga satsang. They informed the SYDA Foundation Website Department of the recurring technical issues, and they also spoke with the directors of the live video streams. In light of all this, Gurumayi requested that the leadership see to it that these issues are resolved—namely, by ensuring that the IT Department in the SYDA Foundation gain more experience in working with the requisite technology.
Gurumayi asked that the live video streams be held also because of what was happening at the time in Australia. Bushfires had been ravaging the country since July 2019, and by January, the situation had only worsened. People were so enervated—physically, emotionally—by the loss of life and land, and by all their consequent struggles. Gurumayi dearly wished that they experience rejuvenation from the Siddha Yoga practices. She wished for them to “replenish their vital juice,” as it were, through satsang.
In addition, Gurumayi had been expressing her deep, deep, deep pain and anguish over the billion and a half animals that perished in the fires in Australia. Therefore, another reason why Gurumayi wanted to hold satsang was to bring peacefulness to these souls that had departed in so abrupt and violent a manner.
Time kept passing, however, and Gurumayi’s request was not being put into action. And then, before we knew what was happening, we were beset by a global crisis in the form of the COVID-19 pandemic. Suddenly the entire world was consumed by the threat of this incredibly confounding disease, the precise nature of which—how it moves, how it mutates—continues to puzzle scientists. Suddenly we were plunged into the unknown, forced to contend with a future that would look drastically different from what anyone could have planned for. With this in mind, Gurumayi said: “Enough waiting. The SYDA Foundation needs to put on the live video streams. Let’s do it. Let’s go for it.”
So on Saturday, March 21, Gurumayi spoke to Rohini Menon and me, and she told us that she wanted to hold a satsang with the global Siddha Yoga sangham. Gurumayi’s intention was for this satsang to make people’s spirits soar again.
When Gurumayi said this, our eyes lit up. We too wanted to do it. We too wanted to go for it. And—we did do it! We went for it, with Gurumayi’s grace and blessings.
The very first “Be in the Temple” satsang took place that same evening via live video stream from the Bhagavan Nityananda Temple. Word had gotten out right away; within the span of just a couple of hours, people from some fifty-six countries were drawn to satsang, ready to be in the Temple.
In that first satsang, there was just one camera. One camera to receive Gurumayi’s teachings; to receive her resplendent darshan; to receive the radiance of Bade Baba’s form, and then to transmit this incredible profusion of grace and blessings to the entire world, so that Gurumayi’s intention could be fulfilled and everyone’s spirits could soar again. Very few people were invited to be present in the Temple that evening—just those who were offering seva, along with a few participants—and the seating was rather unusual. We were seated at least six feet apart from one another, in accordance with the parameters for social distancing put in place by the New York State government.
You might recall that Gurumayi spoke about the seating arrangement during that satsang, and how it reminded her of being in Gurudev Siddha Peeth as a teenager and young adult. Gurumayi happily recounted how she and her friends would always notice the way Westerners would sit, particularly those who were visiting the Ashram for the first time. They would come to the courtyard lugging these giant pillows, each of which was at least five feet long, and they’d use the pillows to reserve their space.
Once they had settled in, they’d sit there serenely with a very “spiritual” aura about themselves—the kind that only a Westerner could really don. They’d sit there and positively imbibe Baba’s darshan; they’d listen to his talks with utmost studiousness, meditate like the hardcore yogis they were, do svadhyaya like there was no tomorrow—confident, all the while, that as long as they were surrounded by their pillows, no one would encroach on their territory. And no one could, because of the fortress they had so assiduously created around themselves.
Unfortunately, what this also meant was that the Indian devotees who were seated in the courtyard had a hard time seeing Baba and receiving his darshan. To begin with, the Indians were generally shorter than the Westerners. And then these tall Westerners had propped themselves up on a mound of pillows! Gurumayi and her friends found this to be an absolutely hilarious scene. They’d laugh, and laugh, and laugh—though, as Gurumayi said, never in front of the Westerners or in front of Baba.
In the satsang on March 21, Gurumayi said, “This scene has now returned. Everyone is forced to maintain their own space, and to give everyone else their space. It’s become a law, where before it was individual preference.”
Gurumayi later shared with me how important it is that one must never laugh at what others do, because karma always comes back. Gurumayi said, “It was such a long time ago. It was a very innocent moment of fun, and now look. What those Western Siddha Yogis did has become a law! So actually, they were very prescient.” Gurumayi and I had a good laugh about this—about how, in time, everything comes full circle.
The inaugural “Be in the Temple” live video stream satsang was, by many counts, a success. Afterward, Gurumayi said to Rohini, “Looks like you’ve got what it takes to put on live video streams. Get yourself a position title and continue offering this glorious seva, which will make spirits soar.”
The very next day, Rohini approached Gurumayi and said that after much brainstorming, deliberating, and weighing of pros and cons, she and her colleagues had settled on the title of “Managing Director.” Rohini went on to enumerate for Gurumayi all the reasons why she had chosen and accepted this title.
Gurumayi said, “Fine. Whatever works—as long as you produce, and the Siddha Yoga sangham benefits from what you do, and their spirits soar.”
And so, having received Gurumayi’s blessing to proceed, Rohini—the newly minted Managing Director—convened a very small group of SYDA Foundation staff members to produce these satsangs. Since then, many more “Be in the Temple” satsangs have been held, and are continuing to be held, in the Siddha Yoga Universal Hall. I spoke earlier about the Guru’s words coming to fruition—that somehow, some way, and not always in the way you’d expect, what the Guru says does manifest. I’m also reminded of a saying in Hindi, which Gurumayi told me is one of her favorites: jaha chāh, vaha rāh. If you have the ardent wish, the desire, the longing—you will find a way to make it manifest. Or: “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.”
I remember when I first heard Gurumayi’s title for these satsangs—“Be in the Temple.” I was thrilled by it, and I was very moved as well. There was just something about this title, something about these words that stayed with me, that affected me deeply. I told this to Ami Bansal, with whom I offer seva writing for the Siddha Yoga path website. “Ami,” I said, “I don’t know why exactly, but this title—it just feels right. Do you know anything more about the word temple? Any deeper meaning that it has?”
Now, Ami, who lives in India, is a scholar of the Sanskrit language. So as I started to ask her this question about words and etymology, I could practically hear her beaming through the phone. She laughed and said, “Of course!” She proceeded to explain—with all the eagerness of a teacher who had, at long last, found a student thirsty for knowledge.
Ami said that the word for temple in the Hindi language is mandir, and it comes from the Sanskrit mandiram. The primary meaning of mandiram is “dwelling,” “abode,” “residence,” or “home.” Mandiram also contains the word man, which means “heart,” “awareness,” and “consciousness.” Therefore, Ami said, we can understand mandiram to refer to the home or dwelling place of divine Consciousness.
There’s another interesting connection between this title, “Be in the Temple,” and the concept of a dwelling place or home. A Siddha Yogi shared with me that someone had posted on social media an acronym that they’d created from some of the letters in the title. The acronym was “BEIT,” and this person and their friends commented on how, in Arabic, beit is actually the word for “house” or “home.” It's even used in reference to a sacred space.
Recently, I was in a meeting with Gurumayi and she described why she had given these satsangs the name “Be in the Temple.” Gurumayi said that this name would give people a better understanding of the word temple. In nearly all languages, there is some equivalent of the word temple. It is a concept found in nearly all cultures, religions, and spiritual traditions. Everyone has their own idea of what a temple is, their own reasons for visiting a temple, their own notions of what happens in a temple. Temples have been in existence since ancient times—to this day, archaeologists are discovering the ruins of houses of worship constructed who knows how many eras ago. And throughout the world, new temples continue to be built.
One of Gurumayi’s teachings is that the body is the temple of God. That is to say, the dwelling place of God is not just a physical structure; it is also a place within our own being. So when we participate in these satsangs in Bhagavan Nityananda’s Temple, we are at the same time being ushered into the temple in our own hearts. Just as we find vishram, true rest, within the walls of the Temple, so too, through Siddha Yoga sadhana, we are impelled to find rest within ourselves. Just as we associate the very edifice of Bade Baba’s Temple with inner solace—with peace for the mind, with the rediscovery of our own strength—so too, when we visualize and respect our own body as a temple, we have a greater chance to have those same experiences wherever we are.
Hearing Gurumayi’s description—as well as Ami’s explanation of mandir, and even the serendipitous connection to beit—I better understood the import of the title “Be in the Temple.” If there’s one thing that’s been brought into sharp relief by the current state of affairs in the world, it’s that we can’t count on there being stability in our external circumstances. Nor, for that matter, can we always count on there being stability in our body, our mind, or our emotions. Our body is prone to fluctuation; our thoughts are subject to oscillation. Our moods have many colors—shifting from blue to red to yellow, often on little more than a whim if we’re not careful. When our reality is so mutable, we need to find something to put our trust in beyond the concoctions of our own imagination—something besides the frantic grasping of a mind trying to make sense of a situation outside of its control or comprehension.
For this reason, we are drawn to the temple. The temple is steady. The temple is sacred. The temple is a sanctuary, and it sparkles with the presence of divinity. The temple holds the Truth. The temple is suffused with serenity. The temple and its atmosphere allow us to be submerged in the knowledge of God.
In the temple we experience timelessness. In the temple we travel beyond the seven layers of skin covering our physical apparatus. The temple is an embodiment of all that is good, all that is great, all that can be attained.
For this reason, we return again and again to the temple.
As I mentioned earlier, the “Be in the Temple” satsangs are continuing to be held in the Siddha Yoga Universal Hall via the Siddha Yoga path website. And, as many of you know by now, information about these satsangs is traveling primarily by word-of-mouth (and all accompanying digital platforms). After Rohini and her colleagues saw how effective it was to communicate in this way for the first “Be in the Temple” satsang on March 21, they decided that it would work best to keep using word-of-mouth, rather than having the SYDA Foundation send everyone a global email communication.
I find that there’s a certain novelty and excitement to communicating in this way, not to mention a welcome sense of familiarity. It’s like a friend of yours letting you in on a secret, or giving you an unexpected gift, and you think, “Oh wow! For me? I wonder what I’ve done to deserve this, what good actions I’ve performed.”
What I also really like about word-of-mouth is that it gives all Siddha Yogis a chance to offer seva. It prompts everyone to step out of a space of self-reference and instead think of others—“Who else needs to know? Who else can I invite to satsang?” I’ve been heartened to see how, over the past few weeks, this kind of collective contribution has become a hallmark of the “Be in the Temple” satsangs. People everywhere are taking responsibility to distribute Gurumayi’s prasad in this way. To me it shows how Siddha Yogis can offer seva from wherever they are in the world. You might even call it—seva without borders.
It is Gurumayi’s wish that everyone have something to hold on to from these satsangs, that they be able to study, practice, assimilate, and implement the teachings from “Be in the Temple.” Therefore, on these pages on the Siddha Yoga path website, you will find Gurumayi’s teachings and talks from the “Be in the Temple” live video stream satsangs. Soon coming is other content from these satsangs—the talks given by Siddha Yogis and Siddha Yoga Swamis, shares from contributors and performers in these satsangs, images and video of the Bhagavan Nityananda Temple, and more.
I encourage you to set aside the time to read, reread, and contemplate these teachings. Those of you who participated in the live video streams will have the opportunity to relish your experience of them again and to further your understanding; those of you who did not will get a snapshot of what happened. In either case, I urge you to avail yourself of these teachings—especially now, when we find ourselves at something of a crossroads, not totally sure of how to proceed or even of where it is that we’re proceeding to.
Recently Gurumayi shared with me a quotation by the renowned environmentalist and author John Muir. Muir said, “When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.” We are, at present, acutely aware of how interconnected everyone and everything is. We are seeing how what happens to one person affects another, how the pain of someone in Kashmir can be felt in Manipur, how the suffering of someone in Buenos Aires can be felt in Kyoto. People have given various names to this category of phenomenon—there’s “the butterfly effect,” and “the hundredth monkey effect,” or even the more familiar ripple effect.
What I can say from reading Gurumayi’s teachings from “Be in the Temple” satsangs—and from reflecting on them and beginning to bring them into my own life—is that just as the scope of pain and suffering can magnify exponentially, so too can the good actions we take. If we call on the fortitude and goodness within ourselves—instead of fear, or perhaps just in spite of it—we can set into motion our own ripple effect. Our kismet is great in that we have the Guru’s grace in our lives. Our kismet is great in that we have received the Guru’s teachings, and we have the opportunity to implement them and keep refining how we implement them. As we do so, we can in turn use the fruits of our sadhana to better help others, to take what we have learned and experienced and offer it back in service to humanity and in stewardship of this earth.