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Thursday, July 18, 2013

guru: so misunderstood...

“In the Vedas, first they say, mata —pita—gurudeva.
The first God to a person is mata, the mother.
Second is father, pita.
Third is master, guru.
And the fourth one is God.”

- Sri Kaleshwar

I want to talk about the concept of 'Guru,' one of the most maligned, misused and ultimately misunderstood terms in today's world, at least in the Western world.  

Ancient Roman statue of Jupiter
today is a Thursday, or Thor's Day (from the Norse) -- Thor being the Scandinavian stand-in for Jupiter/Zeus in the Roman/Greco mythos... and Jupiter being the expansive, enlightening planet, according to Vedic astrology, of the Guru. 

Thursdays in Hindu India are referred to simply as "Guru Day," the day when the Guru energy is the highest, most accessible (many people will go to the temple of their guru or family deity, bringing offerings of flowers and fruit, taking the blessings offered & flowing there).

so, I was thinking that it's a perfect day to explore the idea of Guru a bit, and hopefully shed some expansive, enlightening illumination on the subject.

the word itself is composed of two small bijas, or seed mantra sounds, gu and ru -- loosely translated as 'the one who brings the light.'   sounds like a great concept, no?  then why is this one word so misconstrued, so often and so thoroughly?

in the East, the tradition of the guru is a long-standing one, through millenniae of human history.  there have always been gurus -- the light-bringers -- and many of them are familiar names to us, like Krishna, Buddha, Rumi.   in modern times, we've heard names like Paramahansa Yogananda, Muktananada, Ammachi, and Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (aka "the TM guy who was with the Beatles").

I'd suggest that we are highly familiar with other guru characters in our Western tradition, but we don't usually think of them as such: Moses, Socrates, Jesus Christ, and Mohammed, to name a few.

in the Western world of modern times, we've even adopted the convention of referring to an expert in any field as a 'guru' -- you know, there are high-tech gurus in Silicon Valley, car mechanic gurus, yoga gurus, even pizza gurus.  in the secular sense, we seem to have little problem with the word.

in the more religious or spiritual context, however, it's a loaded term evoking many complex emotions, biases, beliefs and even conflicts.

(side-track but not really: in the ancient days, if a person was fortunate enough to find their true guru, all of their friends and family members were congratulatory, supportive, delighted: it meant that that individual was on the way to their real life, their real soul liberation, their real evolution.

nowadays, if you say you've found a guru -- well, people are likely to move away from you a little noticeably, as if you maybe uttered an obscenity, are emitting a strange odor, or just started playing a Barry Manilow recording [had a friend in college who used to clear his dorm room of lingering guests effectively, using the latter as a strategy].  the word 'cult' passes through their minds, as surely as if it were tattooed on your own forehead. it's a weird, uncomfortable reaction -- no one really knows what to say, or do, or how to respond, out of all the biases and emotional conditioning to the whole concept.)

part of this emotional reaction is that we've all seen -- this is true of both East and West, today -- false 'gurus,' charlatans posing as holy men or women while taking advantage of their credulous following.  it's really more like good carny, what these folks are doing -- looking for the marks, playing a few tricks with a good patter, and raking in the money all the while. 

these kinds of disreputable characters are, of course, not gurus at all, and are in fact the antithesis of what a real guru is, represents, transmits and shares with the world.

so what is a real guru?  
Some of the gurus in my lineage
(clockwise, from top left):
Jesus Christ, Shirdi Sai Baba,
Mahavatar Babaji, Ramana Maharishi
Sri Ramakrishna, and Lord Buddha

A guru is a God-knowing person who has been divinely appointed by Him to take the seeker as a disciple and lead him from the darkness of ignorance to the light of wisdom.
- Paramahansa Yogananda
"I cannot stand anyone calling me guru. It irritates me.
Who is the guru? Satchidananda (Bliss, awake in Itself) alone is the guru."
- Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa

despite my enormous skepticism, doubts, and hard-headed Missouri "Show-Me!" stance, I went to India in 1999 for the first time, to study intensively with a guru I'd met earlier that year, Sri Kaleshwar. 
(I wound up living in India, on his ashram, for the next five years.
needless to say, I'd found the real deal.)

what I thought about gurus to that point was pretty much the normal skeptical idea; I assumed they were mostly charlatans, or if they were sincere spiritual leaders, that they were the crutch for insecure, un-selfconfident people who needed to lean on someone other than themselves -- I thought gurus were for the weak and the meek, not the strong and capable, people.

what I learned in India, however, was something of a vastly different nature.

I learned, first, the the guru is really a character who inhabits a physical body while being in constant, uninterrupted union with the energy of god.  the real yoga. a walking, talking, blessing yoga in the form of a person. 

secondly, I learned that the guru is a being who is utterly dedicated to the spiritual success and awakening of those around the guru.  the real guru will work tirelessly, selflessly, day and night, to ensure the spiritual unfoldment of the sincere student.  it is a bond beyond comprehension -- because it is a bond between souls, not personalities, that has extended over many, many, many lifetimes. 

it's also beyond the normal comprehension because we are so accustomed to others wanting something from us - and the guru doesn't want anything, just our open heart and spiritual success. 

A guru's only interest is to help you progress spiritually. If the teacher wants something from the disciple, he is not a master. The master's only desire is to give, not to take. But if the disciple has the wish to help the work of the master, that is to his credit—he is helped by giving to God's cause.  - Paramahansa Yogananda

thirdly, I learned that the physical guru is the bridge to the supernatural world for the student who's willing to walk there. the guru has one foot in both worlds -- and an outstretched hand.  it's hardly for the faint of heart to take that hand and allow oneself to be pulled through the looking glass -- but it's essential to spiritual understanding and enlightenment.  it's the way that the guru energy helps a human being open their channels -- reawaken their soul essence and capacity, in order to recognize their own divinity in this world and operate, then, effectively from that recognition.

It's always a mirror -- a mirror of love.

The guru is a panderer (pimp) - his duty is to broker the deal between the devotee and the object of his desire: God.  - Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa

fourthly, it is the guru's duty to show the student the reality of this world, and this creation, especially the life and death opposites (plus what lies beyond them) and the reality of the face of god.  the guru is like a match-maker, in that sense - between the seeker and god.  once that acquaintance has been made directly -- the student sees the face of the divine, for real (not in a meditation or a vision) -- that bond has been established and the guru can back off a bit, leaving the student to learn directly from the god energy flowing to and through the student.

finally, I learned the most important point of all -- the physical guru, a human being in a form like anyone else's very human body, is merely an external representation of the real guru, the consciousness, that is existing in every human being, all the time.  by recognizing the inner and outer guru and the dynamic between them, we are able to come out from our own illusions about what is life, what is the reality of this creation, and who are we, really.

It is like a small chicken inside the egg. Spirituality is like that. When do you expect the chickens to come out from under the hen? 

The hen is like a guru. He knows how to prepare the chicken to come out. To be honest, it is possible for the egg to come out only when it's in the right position, when it comes under the hen.

Is a chicken really hidden in the egg? Yes, there is a chicken. But there is a process you have to do to make it come out. The hen has to do a process to make it come out, or the mechanism has to run inside the egg to come out.

In your body, you're like an egg. The illusions are like a shell. You need to come out. To come out means, you need to create your own mechanism of the energy system.
- Sri Kaleshwar 

because our own consciousness is largely a stranger to us, a foreign thing we don't really contact or converse with on a regular basis, the concept of a physicalized guru is likewise a stranger... and often we tend to fear, or even vilify, that which we don't know.

but the guru's real role -- showing us the divine in externalized forms (sometimes, a range of them, the more the merrier when we're talking about seeing the face of god directly) as a kind of mirror, to the divine that is operating in each of us -- is largely misunderstood, and distorted.

it's a huge leap of faith, belief, understanding, confidence and self-love to accept and develop our own divine light.

in other words, in the beginning, it's hard for us to see the guru accurately because our own self-perception (in the mirror) is distorted. distorted with what? life experiences, heartbreaks, disappointments, cynicism, pain, -- basically, different expressions of our karmic baggage. 

“The guru is the formless Self within each one of us. He may appear as a body to guide us, but that is only his disguise.” - Ramana Maharishi

it's much easier to look outside for authority, guidance, teachings -- and then often blame the very agent of those things when we get uncomfortable in their presence and relentless mirroring -- than it is to delve deeply inside oneself, for real, to see what we're made of.

delving inside is usually accompanied by a kind of purification -- meaning that it's often our inner demons that show up first, to be disarmed and dissolved, than our inner light and consciousness selves.   it takes courage to want to go inside and start really looking closely at our own essence -- and it also takes the friendship and expert guidance of someone who really knows the whole journey, A to Z, to help us.

Handing a rose to my beloved friend,
guru and well-wisher, Sri Kaleshwar (May 2011)

Our relationship is immortal.  He showed me the face of god, directly.

... and that is the unique position of a guru.  the guru is one who already knows the way through the desert -- and is just waiting for us to ask for directions.  most of the time, the guru is so accommodating that they'll walk right alongside us until we reach our destination -- whether we recognize their presence or not.

There is only one door to heaven. There are no side doors (to avoid suffering). 

Even though a master is bringing short cuts, you have to go through the main door. 
You can't bribe somebody, "Please, can I get in the side door?" No chance. 

But there is a chance the guru, the master, has some little authority that he can take care of your karma. He has some authority. Once he gives initiation to you, he can handle that karma and he can take it. 
- Sri Kaleshwar 

it's a peculiarity of the way this world works -- it is often human nature to bite the hand that feeds us the best nourishment of all.  the real guru is often a figure in the center of a good deal of controversy -- stirring up many different, intense feelings and negative emotions in people, widely. 

how could this be?  they come to bring the light, right? 

how come we're not all delighted and grateful about that light? why does the guru's life seem like such a thankless profession?

because of the karmic purification involved in being around a real guru.  the energy, the Satchitananda that is the guru energy, as Sri Ramakrishna mentioned above, is a high divine light. 

in the light -- the shadows can't stand. 

but each of us is carrying tremendous shadows, usually without our awareness, and they don't dissolve without a fight, often kicking and screaming even on their way out the door. 

frequently, our own negative tendencies get amplified (by really having a light shined on them!), and in our attempts to defend and deflect that light, choosing instead to try to hide or hold on to our own familiar, comfortable shadows, we wind up blaming the source of the light for our sudden and intense discomfort with ourselves... rather than seeing clearly that it's just our own stuff.

it's like when a person has a bug of some kind -- often we wind up vomiting out some toxins, and that relief to our system allows the system to rebalance itself, freed from those toxins.

emotionally, when we're getting closer to the light that we really are, inside, we do start to purge our toxins, energetically -- and it's not uncommon to see spiritual students vomit their emotional reactions, outbursts, negativities, blame, hatred, fury, and so on, onto the guru.

it is natural.  (it's not very smart, really, but it's natural.)

and the real guru is happy to experience that, too, knowing that it's part and parcel of the evolution of the student's consciousness.   a lot of shadows have to be cleared away before even the student can get a glimpse of their own inner light. 

and the guru is willing to stand, absolutely unmoved, loving, calm, patient, in that storm of emotional vomit from the student -- standing in pure love, unconditional compassion, just waiting for the cycle to come to a close, and the time when the much-unburdened student is able to see more clearly, what's really what.

if you think for a moment about Jesus on the cross, betrayed, reviled, beaten and vilified by pretty much everyone around him, his case is an extreme example of this same principle -- and a testimony to the unfathomable reservoirs of patience, understanding, compassion, peace and pure love that the guru has for... well, pretty much everyone.

see if they wet their pants

The words Guru, Swami, Super Swami,

Master, Teacher, Murshid, Yogi, Priest,

most of those sporting such a title are
 just peacocks.

The litmus test is:
hold them upside down over a cliff for a few hours.
If they don't wet their pants

maybe you found a real

- Kabir Das

I could go on and on on this theme, but I think I'll stop for now -- and consider this post a kind of opening of the conversation of what is a guru.

in closing, I'd like to add that this-coming weekend (July 19-22nd) is the Full Moon of the Guru -- a highly auspicious and unusual time in the spiritual energy in this world.  once a year, during the full moon in July, the Guru energy is completely flowing and accessible -- to anyone -- blessing the true inner desires and requests that we have. 

"Guru Purnima Day, that day is the master’s energy. Channeling the master’s energy means my master, my master to his master, his master, then his master – the heritage of the masters’ cycles.  There’s no way the illusions can hit, can touch, the masters’ cycles at the time.  It is their energy. 

That’s why they called it Guru Purnima, the moon of the Guru.  A high percentage of that energy he’s controlling in his hands on that day. At that time he can create, he can make certain amazing things done in your life by grace of Mother Divine."
-- Sri Kaleshwar

Guru Purnima is a remarkable time for inner evaluation, for prayer, for clarity, and for opening the heart to the divine (however we think of it or call it) and asking, simply, for the real depth of what we want. 

spiritual centers dedicated to this kind of energy tradition will be hosting meditations, ceremonies, retreats, all kinds of ways to honor the guru energy and to bring its blessings ever closer to the hearts and souls of human beings. 

UCBK, my own home base temple dedicated to this amazing lineage of holy souls and representatives of the guru energy/consciousness, will be hosting a variety of events via webcast.  (you can click here for a full schedule.)

finally, Happy Guru Purnima to all!  I hope you'll take some time during this incredibly precious spiritual energy cycle to consider, deeply, your true desires and spiritual longings -- whatever it is that you're wanting to have blessed by the divinity, in your life.  ask humbly, surrender the results into the hands of the energy, and be prepared for a miracle!

“The master and student relationship is immortal. The bond is not for this lifetime. That bond is forever and ever, for many lifetimes. Wherever you go, he is there... he can make the inner bliss grow in you very powerfully.”  Sri Kaleshwar

Sri Kaleshwar (1973 - 2012)
"Why fear when I am here?
You're here, not only for yourself, you're here to help others. 
Be a symbol for the love."

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

considering Nobody-ness (Part 2, continued from previous post)

"...clearly I’m not needed, 

yet I feel myself turning

into something of inexplicable value."

- Mary Oliver

... so this is where I'm at, today.

this wild and precious life I have has more or less ground to a halt, as I've known it to date.  contrasted with years and years of solid day-in, day-out teaching and healing, preparing students, leading process groups, traveling back and forth to India, facilitating satsangs, fire homas, music concerts, special events and running an active temple -- my life today is almost devoid of these activities, with a few notable exceptions, all revolving around the action of service.

I barely teach workshops these days, since so few people seem to be interested in the depths of spiritual knowledge from ancient India -- especially because it requires some hard work and discipline to attain that knowledge.  sometimes the easier, more superficial subjects and meditation experiences are where the majority of people want to go.  I can't say I blame them!  (after all, I'm still on a lawn chair in a lovely hotel yard, contemplating my own navel, most of the time!)

I don't present, always, as a 'spiritual master healer' or leader of any sort when I'm out and about in the world.  more and more, I hang out with 'ordinary people,' not avowedly or overtly 'spiritual' folks, or even in the company of people who are vehemently opposed to all things spiritual in nature -- and I'm not perceived to be anything special, or particularly interesting.

in many ways, I feel that I'm masquerading in the role of a simple, ordinary, normal human being -- and it's at once a relief (not to have to perform to any particular expectations, perception of authority or labels) mingled with a kind of 'wtf?' feeling when my opinions or statements (especially about spirituality) aren't met with any level of respect or recognition commensurate with what I know my inner experience, and truth of my history, to be. 

it's a really good, and interesting, slap to my own egoism -- this feeling of being pretty much unimportant, irrelevant... Nobody.

I enjoy working with our veterans and military families, however I'm able -- healing PTSD cases,  doing hospice through The Twilight Brigade/Compassion In Action, volunteering at the VA in different capacities, or helping out via UCBK's veteran healing services. 

my formal healing practice is kind of hit-or-miss -- I'm available but the recognition of a need for healing doesn't seem to be a primary motivation in the minds/hearts of many people.  so my healing, like my lawn chair approach to so many things in spirituality, has become a behind-the-scenes activity -- I'm constantly sending distance healing to many, many people. the miraculous results and life-changing turnarounds are still happening, but no one even knows I had any involvement in these situations or lives, on the surface.

years ago I read a passage from Rumi (that I haven't been able to locate since, alas) where he said something like, "you will take care of thousands of people/yet never know their names." 

one of the most amazing examples, actually, of this approach to healing came unexpectedly last month.

I'd seen a brilliant, professional woman for healing, once, in LA -- I'll call her R., -- she'd been through a total traumatic wringer in her life, really appalling health circumstances had plagued her through her life, and she's only about 40 right now.  I'd seen a piece she wrote on the net, and was deeply moved by her situation -- enough to offer a formal healing to a total stranger.  (we had a friend in common who passed on my offer.)

although I did the healing, her heart was so utterly closed and bruised that she couldn't really receive it -- although some circumstances in her life and traumatic times did start to improve, over the year that followed the healing.   she was obviously not inclined to stay in touch with me -- although I've kept doing distance healing for her, blessing her life, from the lawn chair in my background role, ever since I met her.

a few weeks ago, our mutual friend called me in horror -- R.'s husband, business partner and soul mate, also fairly young (early 40s) was suddenly in the hospital with a life-threatening condition, like out of nowhere.  I read her blogs on the net and -- omg!  he was really close to dying.  just, in a few days of hospital admission.

this was, I think, on a Tuesday afternoon.

he wasn't responding to any medication, the doctors were baffled but trying everything they could think to do....  it was really appalling serious. and she was being unbelievably stalwart, positive, brave, prayerful, and trying to make sense of it all while being a real life-line to her fragile, slipping-away mate.

all I could think about were the incomprehensible mountains of pain and horror, and the intense suffering, that this woman had ALREADY been through in her life -- and that the divine just couldn't, could not, must not, subject her to the loss of her husband on top of it all.  it was just too much to bear. 

so I began doing serious, intense, distance healing and called many friends to also ask them to send distance healing to this man none of us had ever met.   (and R., the woman, and their young daughter.)   some of the most intense, divine intervention kinds of healing tools I know were immediately and constantly put into use, in the service of this man's life.

by Friday came the word that he had -- inexplicably -- turned the corner.

that Friday afternoon, I read her blog entry from the Thursday night before -- he had been so sick, so far away, so out of consciousness, that she had basically written a plaintive, poignant, gut-wrenching farewell to him... I was very glad I hadn't read this until the next day, and that he was beginning to show signs of improvement.

on Saturday, my friend sent me a photo -- one of the most joyful, heart-melting sights I've ever seen in my life as a healer.  it was taken from the back, and it was in a hospital hallway, of R. and her husband, obviously weak and in a hospital gown, with a portable IV contraption on his side, leaning on her shoulder as they took a walk down the hospital hall together, gently, for the first time since he'd been admitted to the hospital nearly a week before!

he was walking!  he was on the mend!  he wasn't going to die after all!  R. wasn't going to have to face the unspeakable tragedy of young widowhood, and the total loss of her soul mate, best friend, husband and partner!!!!!!

I cried in sheer relief, and in sheer joy, at the phenomenal miracle of such a healing moment.  my heart was too full to speak!   I was so grateful -- for the tools that I know -- for the crew of dedicated healers, students and colleagues alike, who'd all taken the time from their hearts to send healing to this total stranger.

and then I remembered that he was, in fact, a total stranger -- someone I had never met, and would likely never meet!

it was weird, in the anxiety and worry for his situation, and R.'s potential devastation of the loss of his life, coupled with the intimacy of soul-to-soul healing day in and day out for several intense days -- I had completely forgotten that I didn't actually know this man in person.

I celebrated privately, inside, my soul singing in joy and delight, in happiness and gratitude, for days.  I thanked my master Kaleshwar, and his entire lineage of holy saints and souls (for it's really all their miraculous energetic abilities that did the heavy lifting in this case -- people like me are just instruments of intention, directing that energy somewhere specific in this world, like to R's husband). I knew it was really the victory of the divine, this healing, and I was so ecstatic, beyond words.  

at one point, my friend (mutual with R. and her husband) asked me, "do you want me to tell them?" and my response was immediate, and sure: "absolutely not.  what would be the point?  I know how this miracle healing happened, and you know, and the other people who sent distance healing know... and that's enough, don't you think?" 

"Because of his pure open heart (in service) to his master,
Hanuman became more powerful than his master Rama."

- Sri Kaleshwar

so, what I'm left with at the moment is this final thought about the great, powerful, staggering humility and pure service of Hanuman, the monkey god who overcame the monkey mind completely -- through his pure open heart.  Hanuman never had a single thought about himself -- his whole mind was only focused on his master, Rama, and how he could be of service to Rama.

because of this single point of focus and devotion, from his heart, Hanuman didn't even realize he had supernatural abilities -- he could fly through the air, lift whole mountains out of the ground and carry them in the air from one place to another, he could become giant-sized in battle, if needed, or shrink himself to the tiniest, barely visible form... and many other abilities.  

Hanuman didn't ever think on his own desires, and so even when his master Rama's service demanded he put his supernatural abilities into action to help Rama, usually someone else had to remind Hanuman that he even had these capabilities in the first place!

what I learn from this is the utter value of seva (selfless service) as a tool to keep the heart open, the mind clear, the self humble and the pernicious impulses towards identity as a Somebody under some kind of control.  

I take the lesson that being a Nobody -- an anonymous, unknown, even obscure personality -- even in the community of Sai students, teachers, and practitioners that I know -- is a precious, important step in my own evolution as a healer and a spiritual character. 

being confined in a delightful lawn-chair by my own master is, obviously, the best way I can serve his needs for me, right now, (and through me, human beings at large) -- and so I'm learning, day by day, to embrace this state even more fully. I am learning to observe but let go of any feelings of regret, or a different desire for myself, ambitions that I may have harbored secretly about stature, position, acclaim or even acknowledgement as a senior teacher in this wild world of Sai spirituality.

I am learning the blessing of being Nobody.

& I am looking forward to the experience -- through the essence of being Nobody -- of growing into the reality of being Everybody.  when will that occur?  does it really matter?  

I am happy to say, and with a sunny confidence: "I don't know!"

for the present, my job is to inhabit my present, and play its current role as fully and thoroughly as I played the roles of student and star teacher that preceded it.

I send you all my love and blessings, from my divine lawn chair in the perfectly manicured luxury hotel lawn.....!    

may you, too, come to recognize the beauty of your own Nobodyhood -- and may we all walk together, becoming Everybody, at last, for the good of all humanity.

may all beings be happy!


considering Nobody-ness... & the power of humility


my life story to date is hardly a private one, with the major timeline events forming the major bullet points of my resume & biography.

you can find my bio all over the internet (including years of spiritual training in India, teaching & healing in Paris and Singapore, then returning to the US to co-found a successful healing center and temple, training hundreds of students and healers along the way, and over the years).

indeed, I spent many years (five in residence, 13 total back and forth) living and studying in India, being groomed to be a Somebody of sorts:  a top spiritual healer.  in effect, a master.  

over those years of intensive study and discipline in India, which was really like going to medical school to become a soul doctor -- rigorous, meticulous work/training -- I never questioned the outcome of having a top Ph.D. in spirituality from the highest 'school' imaginable: I would take my place in the world as a spiritual yogini in the West, playing my role in the divine plan to help ease the suffering of humanity.  I would become a soul doctor on duty, ready and able to help. 

I never questioned the inexorable course of my own destiny, in this respect.  and I never doubted that this was the role I'd come to this life to play, and play well, thanks to the intense, unrelenting training I experienced with my beloved master Sri Kaleshwar in India. 

this to say that I never doubted I would inhabit the role of a spiritual healer. and I never questioned the weight and the attachment of that label, that identity, ever, or how much importance I'd endowed that identity with, in my own mind/ego/heart structure.  

until the last year or so. 

"First you come as a Body
then you think you are Somebody

then you realize you are Nobody
then you become Everybody!" 

- Adi Shakti

it's been my extreme blessing in this life to enjoy the friendship of a number of high divine souls, and that of my dear friend Adi Shakti, a Singaporean saint, is one of the most sublime.  (you can find her website here.)

when I first met her in 2003, in her humble apartment in Singapore (that is still her ashram, even to this day), the back of her altar had a beautiful painting of four flames, each overlapping layer from the orangest, darkest inside flame to the lightest, almost pale yellow flame of the outer-most edge... when I asked her about this striking image, she laughed, and told me that Mother Divine had instructed her to paint these gradations of flames as a metaphor for the evolutionary stages of a human soul in spirituality. 

the innermost, darkest flame symbolizes the initial human life experience, when we've been born as a Body, the next our young achieving years where we're full of self-identity (profession, education, marriage, sexual orientation, race, religion, etc.) and think we are indeed Somebody. 

the third state -- when a human being has passed through all the Somebody nonsense, to realize that the self is, in fact, Nobody -- aha!  THEN, Adi explained triumphantly, "you become Everybody!"

what she didn't say at that time was that in my own life, I was still hugely caught in the ideas of myself as a Somebody -- and hadn't even yet begun the journey into Nobodiness.

(I'm not sure I would have believed her, then, if she had tried to tell me such a thing.)

but the sheer adventure of a life dedicated to spiritual awakening and being of service as a healer in this world, able to help alleviate the pain & suffering of humanity has led me to this most expected but unexpected twist and turn in my journey to date: 

the delicious, and terrifying, and liberating, beginning recognition that I am, in fact, Nobody. 

I'm nobody! Who are you?
Are you nobody, too?
Then there's a pair of us--don't tell!
They'd banish us, you know.

How dreary to be somebody!

How public, like a frog

To tell your name the livelong day

To an admiring bog! 
- Emily Dickinson
it's an old saw in yogic spirituality that name & fame, and the pursuit thereof, or attachment to these qualities, is a big problem to anyone looking for real enlightenment.  they're the most subtle and pernicious of ego traps that even a well-intentioned individual can get caught in, and held by, without noticing the ensnarement until it's too late. 

this is why seva (selfless service), discipline, meditation, surrender to the Guru principle, self-contemplation and the willingness to be humble, even uncomfortable, along the spiritual journey are such vital components of development and maintenance -- they really help a human being stay grounded, simple, unattached to the shiny allure of material life and gains, and hopefully avoiding the major illusion-attraction to crazy self-aggrandizement like the pursuit of name and fame.

many stories of the great saints of any spiritual tradition celebrate the relative anonymity of these holy souls -- living simple, austere lives devoid of glamor, celebrity, material wealth, or masses of devotees.  some of the greatest saints of humanity are unknown to any but a select few by name -- many many many holy characters have simply lived in the background, anonymous lives of intense meditation and service to humanity behind the scenes -- unsung heroes and heroines of humanity's evolution.

in my own case, I noticed that being sent out to the West to teach and heal, sharing the extraordinary body of ancient spiritual knowledge and treasure that I'd been so generously given over years in India, presented a series of enormous challenges to the egoism in me.  

it was difficult to understand, initially, and even more difficult to accept!, that hordes of students weren't just flocking to me to receive these luminous teachings at every turn.   it was inconceivable to me to advertise a workshop in the heart and depth of spiritual expertise, to have four or five people vaguely sign up for it (and maybe three actually show up to the class).  

looking back, I can see that in my inner idea of 'how things should be,' I fully imagined classrooms-full of eager students, hanging on my every word (which is not my speech or knowledge, but that of the top sages and saints of ancient India) -- leading to a good, solid reputation as a teacher and healer, a steady income, and a life of peace and ever-expanding teaching experiences and opportunities.


at the time, although I was vaguely aware of these inclinations, I would have denied that this was my thinking, or ambition, or idea of myself and my identity as a teacher of Sai knowledge. 

and it is true, as well, that the work itself was immensely satisfying, and the feeling of trail-blazing in America, helping to restore the profound, and tremendously practical/helpful knowledge of healing from India back to people in extreme need of this kind of experience and teaching, was in many ways its own reward.  and it was absorbing -- fully -- and often didn't leave me much time or opportunity for considering the concept of attaining Somebody-hood, or occupying it already, without my conscious notice.

but...  well, it's staggering to see how perfectly Emily Dickinson, in her own austere, silent, removed life (in, as it were, her Massachusetts ashram), nailed the concepts from deep inside her own experience. 

her poem, above, a real ode to the joys of Nobody-hood, and containing such a world-weary contempt for the illusory traps and enticements of the lure of Somebody-hood, makes me catch my breath in admiration at her clarity.  

and I realize that, frog-like, I had the strong, repeated impulse to advertise myself and the work that I do, not only from the desire to spread its helpful influence and healing magic, but to reinforce in myself the conviction that I mattered, that I had an 'important' identity, even a special one...  as a Somebody.

oh, dear.  what an unfortunate state to find oneself in -- and what a kind of spiritual hole to have to dig out of, having recognized the weight and depth of such a self-idea to be nothing more than a pure, self-limiting illusion.

"The misery you will have to endure in realizing enlightenment is nothing to the misery you will endure in life after life if you do not realize it.  To get an arrow out of the flesh, you have to probe the wound.  That hurts.  But be grateful that you have understood enough to choose this misery.  Not just grateful, be happy.  It is important to be happy."

- Thuksey Rinpoche

"The ego rediscovers its real and fundamental nature, the Self or the pure Consciousness principle, only when it is separated and becomes aloof from everything. No matter what method we use in our spiritual practices, be it prayer, worship, mantra, meditation, pranayama, austerities, rituals, devotion to a form of God, or selfless service, these methods will bring their positive result only when the ego is separated from its field of activity and its instruments which contact the outer world."
- Baba Hari Dass

2011 was a phenomenal year for my work, the spiritual community I've shared it with in the Santa Cruz, CA, area since 2005, and for the spiritual upliftment of the US.

in 2011, a group of students from UCBK in Santa Cruz, under the guidance of Sri Kaleshwar, and led by Jonathan (the co-minister and co-founder of UCBK) and me, traveled to South India to receive a series of peak spiritual/enlightenment experiences, involving contact with Jesus Christ. it was an incredible victory for our community group -- many of whom had been working extremely hard, with enormous discipline and a willingness to go deep, into meditation, into their own self-assessment of their negative qualities, to purification of mind, body, heart and soul, since 2005 and 2006 with Jonathan and me.  

for them all to walk in the door and experience the Christ Consciousness directly was an unspeakably powerful moment -- and it felt, in many ways, like a graduation day in spirituality.

there were two missing pieces in that spiritual victory, which were given to the group in quick succession in May and then July of 2011 -- a visit to UCBK in Santa Cruz by Sri Kaleshwar, gracing the grounds and environment of the UCBK temple and facility, and a link to the experience of pure consciousness, given that summer to our group, on another visit to South India for a program entitled "Immortal Enlightenment."

concurrently, with this series of spiritual enlightenment experiences and incredibly victorious moments, my own position in spiritual life, as a teacher and healer, underwent a subtle but fairly radical transformation. 

to that point, I'd always been a kind of trail-blazing, tireless teacher and leader -- again, I was groomed to be a Somebody, I thought! -- teaching long, intensive workshops every weekend for about six years, at that point, conducting numerous rituals, sacred musical concerts, weekly satsangs... a grueling, relentless schedule that also went a long way towards defining me as a kind of star teacher in the Kaleshwar firmament, training healers and spiritual students who were then capable of doing powerful work in their own right. 

somewhere in the early part of 2011, I had a lucid dream where Kaleshwar was meeting with a huge auditorium-full of people in the US, as was often his wont.  the auditorium was part of a large luxury hotel complex, and although I was in the doorway when he entered to be with his hundreds of students, and he looked at me, and gave me a strong shaktipat (energy transmission/blessing) straight to my 3rd eye...

... in the next scene in the dream, I was outside the auditorium, in the highly manicured lawn area of the hotel complex, reclining in a lawn chair, meditating deeply.  and completely alone. 

oh my god, I'd been benched!

sent to relax peacefully and develop my own inner consciousness in a lawn chair -- while everyone else was inside, clamoring for the teachings and acknowledgement, the physical presence and support of the master.  

it felt completely bizarre to be separate from everyone else, and in my own process, there in my lawn chair -- and it also felt completely sensible, perfect, timely, and peaceful.  just what I needed.

and so, I began to recognize that my own layer of spiritual development had begun to diverge from many of my colleagues, students and friends in this spiritual Sai tradition - that my master had put me on my own track, slightly apart, in order for me to learn and digest, develop and evolve on my own.  and in the background, not in the foreground, of everyone else's awareness. 

in one fell swoop, it seemed, I had become a background, behind-the-scenes player in the spiritual drama -- not a principle actor in the highly visible spotlight on the stage that I had easily inhabited for many years up to that point.

I was at once amused and dismayed by this turn of events.

but also, something inside me began to relax and appreciate, and then embrace, the far more invisible role that was now mine to play.

the divine was really beginning to peel me away from the world I thought I knew -- one of accomplishment, attainment, spiritual visibility, a leadership role, a position of authority and gravitas, and of a kind of small 'name and fame.'

relieved of a command post, as it were, I thought with amusement that this was a wildly different role for me -- a lawn-chair, sedentary kind of luxury beach bunny, as it were -- and I also thought, "it'll be an interesting phase. I wonder how soon it'll be before I can get back to my regularly scheduled work and pace."  

ha, again.....!

"therefore it is said
that the wise man has no accomplishment
the spiritual man has no achievement
& the true sage
has no name." 
- Chuong-Tse

which brings me back to Shirdi Sai Baba, my kind of grandfather-master.  (in the lineage of gurus I represent, Shirdi Sai Baba is the direct master of my own master, Kaleshwar.) 

although Shirdi Sai Baba was (and still is) one of the highest spiritual, supernatural souls ever to grace this earth -- operating on par with the likes of Mahavatar Babaji and Jesus Christ -- he lived a long life in a tiny, obscure village in West India, as a humble beggar in torn clothes, begging bowl in hand, eating scraps that people gave him, often sharing them with the dogs and other nearby animals.

his utter humility -- a kind of king of the world, the universe, a time-lord, and master of miracles (he did achieve a kind of notoriety for the healing miracles he performed, later in his life) -- in spending a whole life as a simple beggar, with no apparent worldly possessions or riches, and no apparent 'accomplishments' per se... it's a striking example to me now of the dharma (mission) of a holy soul, and how it can seem so completely insignificant on the surface level of life and perception.  even while it's one of the most shining examples of an enlightened soul with whom humanity has ever been graced.

Shirdi Sai Baba was a living embodiment of the principles enumerated, above, by Chuong-Tse, himself a great Taoist sage.  even his name, Shirdi Sai Baba, a household name today in India and among Indian communities world-wide, shrouded him in perfect anonymity.

"Baba" is a generic term for 'Father,' much in the way that a Western priest is referred to as 'Father' So-and-so.  there are thousands of Babas in India today -- the term is a kind of honorific but maintains that feeling of anonymity at the same time.

"Sai" means "holy" in the Parsee language (the Persians, Farsi-speakers, who moved to India many centuries ago, became known as Parsees in India).  a Parsee man saw Shirdi Baba walk by, exclaimed involuntarily "SAI!!!!!" in reverence at the sight, and the name stuck!  

and "Shirdi"?  it's simply the town that Shirdi Sai Baba was sent to live in, at age fourteen, by his own master Venkusa. 

so "Shirdi Sai Baba," in translation, comes to 'the holy father living in Shirdi.' 

in other words, and in the words of Chuong-Tse, that "true sage had no name."

I never used to think about Baba's life as a kind of road-map charting my own way in this spiritual adventure I occasionally like to call, jokingly, 'my life.'  

but I'm definitely thinking about his life, and his anonymity, and his sublime greatness in that anonymity, a great deal these days.