Who Would I Be?

By Swami Nirmalananda

My life bent in a most beneficial direction on one amazing day when I received initiation from my Guru.  He turned me toward the light, a big improvement over the hazy fog I’d been living in.  Beyond merely filling my life with light, he revealed the source of light within me, my own Self.  I cannot imagine who I would be now if it wasn’t for Baba.   He gave me me.

I had learned how to be what other people wanted me to be.  I could mouth the words and go through the motions, but it felt like I was miming eating.  No food on my imaginary fork, I pretended to swallow but was not getting fed.  Withering away on the inside, I tried harder on the outside, trying to make it all meaningful. 

Then Muktananda came to the USA.  Wow!  I didn’t even know enough to go looking for him, so he came to me.   I followed him home like a stray puppy, needing food, shelter, love and training.  He gave me all of that and much more.  He gave me me.

For seven short years, I marinated in his presence and grace.  His words pierced my armor, permeating deeper than my mind and heart, feeding me on the inside.   Then he explained what was happening, quoting a sutra (as he always did):

j~naanam annam — Shiva Sutras 2.9

Pure knowledge is the only real nourishment, that which gives real satisfaction.

Again and again he gave me the inner experience, then explained what was happening to me.   It was like I was tasting my first mango, then finding out the name for it, both of which he actually did give me as well.  More important than mangoes, however, he gave me me.

Tonight is the full moon of the Guru, Guru Purnima.  It is the night when grace flows most fully.  I know it’s true because I missed it one year.  Living in his Ashram, I offered my seva (volunteer work) in food service.  When the crowds were big, we had more people to feed, so we were busier.  Guru Purnima is the biggest night of the year!  Big crowds honoring the Guru, many offering gifts or donations to support the Guru and Ashram for the year, all meant that we had lots of mouths to feed. 

Every prior year, I’d slipped out of the eating area to go bow at Baba’s feet and get tapped by his peacock feathers.  But that one time, the lines of people eating seemed unending.  I thought, “I’ll bow tomorrow night,” and offered a mental pranam (bow).

The next evening, I went forward and bowed, but it wasn’t the same.  I could tell the difference.  His blessings were still there, of course, for one who is an agent of light cannot withhold it.  But it didn’t penetrate me in the way it had on earlier Guru Purnima holy-days. 

Looking back, I can see that I was the one blocking the flow.  Yes, the grace flows most powerfully on Guru Purnima.  But I was able, on any day, to put up my guard.  I needed no training in how to do so.  Worse, by not going to see him, personally and physically, on that important occasion, it was like I had said, “Yeah, having a Guru is good, but the real person doesn’t matter so much.”   Except he did.  I had only seven short years with him on this physical plane.  Every day mattered.  A lot.

Tonight is the night of all nights for bowing to the Guru.  If you cannot be present with One who is the Living Embodiment of Consciousness, bow to the Guru’s picture.  Linger with your head on the floor, in that sweet space of emptying and filling at the same time.   You can learn how to live there. 

Without my Baba, who would I be?  I certainly didn’t know how to be me, not until he gave me me.  Now I live with my head always at his feet, living in that inner space he gave me.  And I am grateful, forever and beyond.  

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