By Aalif Surti October 2004 The relationship between the aspirant and the guru is truly special, as can be seen in these personal stories of their gurus’ benediction that many of our readers have shared with us Teaching no-thing In the summer of 1989, I was invited to Yogaville, Swami Satchidananda’s ashram in Buckingham, Virginia, USA to perform comedy as my alter ego, Swami Beyondananda. Although I had heard that Gurudev had a great sense of humour and loved to laugh, this was a bit intimidating. After all, here I was performing shtick wearing (in those days) a rainbow clown wig in front of a genuine swami. My wife Trudy and I arrived a day or two early, and took a tour of the Lotus Shrine. The Lotus Shrine is a beautiful temple, dedicated to celebrating the truth in every religion. The slogan above the entrance says: ‘One truth, many paths.’ So as not to exclude anyone, the Shrine even has a section honouring atheism. (Hey, just because you don’t believe in God doesn’t mean that God doesn’t believe in you!) The first night, we attended a satsang with Swami Satchidananda and it put a smile on my face just to be in his presence. At one point, Gurudev said something that gave me an idea. He was talking about enlightenment and said: “If you want to be enlightened, you must desire nothing.” Now, at that time, I had manufactured and was selling funny, colourful, playful boxes of…nothing. I had an entire routine developed around the concept that this box was the ultimate enlightenment product because nothing was guaranteed to solve all your problems instantly. With just a little bit of trepidation, I did the nothing bit during my performance and watched Swami Satchidananda laugh uproariously. After the show, I presented him with a box of Nothing to “help him gain enlightenment”. We all laughed, and as you can see from the photo, Gurudev clearly gave Nothing his stamp of approval. Fast forward five years, and I receive a call from Yogaville. A huge event was being planned for December 1994 to celebrate Gurudev’s 80th birthday. Would I be willing to come to specifically do my ‘nothing’ routine at the celebration? My answer was yes, and I joined a slew of musicians and other celebrities to honour a being who dedicated his public life to finding and creating common ground among all spiritual paths—and reminding us all that happiness is an inside job. In keeping with the spirit of joy and laughter, a ‘farce field’ was inadvertently created. The speaker right before me was Dr Dean Ornish, famous for his very successful programme for treating heart disease. Dr Ornish, as I recall, was a pretty serious guy who had no idea what I was going to say. He told his own story of how his life was transformed by meeting Sri Gurudev. When he was still in school, he went through a period of deep depression, and someone took him to meet Swami Satchidananda. “When I told Gurudev that I was seeking happiness,” Dr Ornish recalled, “he gently laughed and said, ‘Nothing will make you happy.’ That insight changed my life.” And then I was on, pitching my Nothing box! What a set up! I sold a lot of boxes of Nothing that night. Although we have long since run out of boxes of Nothing to sell, Gurudev’s message still resonates. Nothing, no thing can make us happy. Happiness is a condition that, like Spirit, transcends circumstance. For years, the photo of Gurudev, Trudy and I, and Nothing, graced my sales table at performances. Today, it sits in front of my computer so I am reminded and inspired each time I sit down to write. I didn’t know Gurudev well, at least not personally. I wasn’t what you would call a ‘devotee’. But I recall a being who loved poetry and word play, who loved life and lived joy. May his memory inspire us to find cause for celebration instead of separation, and find our happiness not from what does or doesn’t happen in our lives, but from the deep well of joy that is the Source of wellness. Steve Bhaerman Steve Bhaerman aka Swami Beyondananda is humorist and author of a new book, Swami for Precedent: A 7-Step Plan to Heal the Body Politic and Cure Electile Dysfunction.Website: www.wakeuplaughing.com. Diamonds of graceI was 25, a Stanford graduate and PhD student. I was a scientist, an academic. I thought I understood it all. Or most of it, anyway. And then I entered His room, in a far off corner of the world, 7000 miles from home, as a river worshipped as the Mother Goddess flowed past. His eyes pierced the thin veil of understanding I thought I had. His presence caused the very fabric of the world I knew to unravel. His words revealed to me, for the first time, the Truth of existence. A wave of the purest love, light, peace and bliss washed over my entire being, penetrating through the skin, into the nucleus of every cell. The wave washed through the recesses of my heart, healing in an instant pain which had festered there for years. The ocean of his divine light washed through my brain, making a mockery of the ‘education’ I thought I had, tearing to shreds the ‘truth’ I had been taught. It washed through the very core of my being, bringing every sense, perception, thought, feeling, and emotion to a standstill. I had been raised to believe that God could not be seen or felt. The God of my religion did not, ever, incarnate in form. We were taught that God was a formless, nameless, unknowable, omnipotent Force to be feared. Then, suddenly, unexpectedly, I was face to face with the Divine in the form of a simple, humble Indian saint, draped in orange robes with divine love and light streaming from every pore of his being. It was a fact that even the scientist in me could not refute. The divinity of his presence was tangible, palpable, unmistakable and undeniable. This realisation that I was in the presence of God belied everything I’d ever been taught, everything I’d heard, everything I’d read. Yet it was truer than the very fact of my own existence. It was truer than the blue of the sky or the green of the leaves. I was miles from the home I had always known, from my family, from the world I had made my own. Yet as I stood on the banks of Mother Ganga, listening to Pujya Swami Chidanand Saraswati sing, carrying us on the wings of his voice to God, suddenly nothing else mattered. To be here, on these sacred banks, to have His divine darshan that cradled my spirit and soul was all that mattered. “But how could you take sanyas?” people ask. “You’re so young.” Or: “How could you leave everything behind? Don’t you ever miss America? Don’t you miss the comfort and life you had there?” When one is walking empty-handed on the beach, one is frequently drawn to the pretty seashells or rocks on the sand and one might even bend down to pick some up. But if one were walking with pearls in one’s hands, one would never even notice the seashells or rocks, let alone bend down to collect them. My Guru has poured diamonds into my hands, of truth, peace, serenity, bliss, and union with God. How could I bemoan the lack of rocks in my life? How could I miss the days of collecting scattered seashells when my hands are now overflowing with the diamonds of His grace?Sadhvi Bhagwati, Rishikesh Guide and transformerDespite my eagerness, I could not find the real path towards spirituality until I came in contact with an engineer through work. He initiated my wife and I into the art of listening the voice of silence (shabad) that is ever present within. The experiences that followed were totally new for us, and took us beyond physical boundaries into spheres where we experienced rare visions, colours, lights, sounds and at times, a state of nothingness. We had an opportunity to meet the Guru, Thakar Singh Maharaj, head of the Ruhani Satsang Society. Maharaj provided teachings of listening to the sound of silence called shabad or dhun. Meetings with Maharaj enabled us to hear without external ears, and the shabad became melodious, intense and regular. We also underwent transformations so that anger subsided, feelings of internal power were enhanced, stress diminished and efficiency at work improved. My wife and I continued with morning and evening meditation, and felt incomplete the day we missed either session. My wife has advanced greatly and is able to read auras and discern the character of a person by just looking at him. Remembering the Guru and living spiritually resolved problems not only in personal life but also on the work front. The Guru is protector, guide, initiator and transformer for me. In the past seven years, miracles have happened effortlessly through his grace. I do not know where I have reached on the spiritual journey. The Guru knows and guides us to higher levels based on our seriousness and devotion. The journey continues.S.K. Dodeja, via email Flower of divine loveI can never forget my first meeting with Pujya Ma in 1978. I questioned her about yoga, Vedanta and meditation and was surprised and disappointed when she interjected: “But have you forgotten Jesus Christ?” Her insight into Christ’s life and teachings was so original and fascinating that I was soon converted. Pujya Ma explained: “We should never give up the religion into which we have been born through destiny. We come to acceptance and understanding of other faiths through sincerely practising our own. God is One, and ultimately all religions are paths to the same destination.” Students of Pujya Ma come from different backgrounds, and cannot be called ‘disciples’, nor does Pujya Ma claim to be a spiritual teacher. When I addressed her as ‘guru’, she replied: “I am neither worthy to become a guru, nor do I wis
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