Words cannot express my gratitude to Gurumayi Chidvilasananda, who is an unending source of grace. She has blessed me through "shaktipat." Through her influence, I was born again and I was led to become a disciple of Christ. I did not know how "shaktipat" would enrich my life, but by the grace of God, it did. As Jesus said,
In all truth I tell you,Some Christians will question how a Guru could cause me to be born from above. For me, the answer to that question is part of the mystery of a God that defies all my efforts at understanding.(2) Gurumayi influenced me to accept Jesus as my personal Lord and Savior.(3) If you are not satisfied by my personal testimony, then read Gurumayi's published books and articles, contemplate them, compare them to the Bible, and go to meet Gurumayi yourself. Her Western headquarters is in South Fallsburg, a small city located north of New York City, in the Catskills. You may also choose to meet the people close to Gurumayi, to see how she has affected them and to determine the fruits of her ministry.
no one can enter the kingdom of God
without being born through water and the spirit;
what is born of human nature is human;
what is born of the Spirit is spirit.
Do not be surprised when I say;
You must be born from above.
The wind blows where it pleases;
you can hear its sound,
but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going;
So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.(1)
What is an Ashram? Why should you bother reading about an Ashram? These questions are sweeping. For me, these questions raise additional philosophical questions: "What is a church?" "What is devotion?" "What is prayer?" "What is service to God?" "What is baptism?" All these institutions and practices, like the Ashram, are designed to help us draw close to God. They succeed if they draw us closer to God, not just for one occasion but for all time.
Gurumayi's ashram heightens the awareness of God, both within its boundaries and when you return to your accustomed life. This chapter relates my experiences in the Ashram and my thoughts about it. It cites Siddha Yoga literature and the Bible, inviting comparison.
The Chapter is drawn from an essay prepared for Gurumayi, who
made a request in January 1993 that all her devotees write "a thesis"
about the Ashram. My thesis was prepared with great devotion to
Gurumayi. Because it was prepared at her request, and because I
have so much love for her, I felt that the writing of the thesis was
sacred. I have made just a few changes in the thesis, to adapt it to this
Silently and unconsciously, I yearned to write this essay, which
Gurumayi requested. Writing the essay helped to answer my
fundamental desire to be one with God. This assignment, into which
I gratefully poured my heart, led me to see that Gurumayi wants me
always to live at the pinnacle of my life, on Mount Kailas -- where the
goddess Parvati is said to have asked Shiva, her Guru, the secrets of
being one with God.
Initially, the Ashram is different for every visitor. Bitter people may experience bitterness, and self-styled victims may wallow in self pity. The lonely may desperately seek a relationship, and the "poor" may seek abundance and money. People hurt as children may seek the warmth of a new Siddha Yoga family, and they may seek the Guru as a parent. For the seeker, the Ashram is an opportunity to know God.
The Ashram, like
life, is a wish-fulfilling
tree.(4) It reflects the
wishes brought to it.
The more one brings,
the more one receives.
Thus, some old souls
may have amazingly quick results. Others, may have results slowly and
The Ashram also is more than a wish-fulfilling tree. Unexpectedly (by the grace of God), some may fulfill the deepest, unconscious wishes of the heart, because the Ashram is a throbbing heart incubator. It has the sound, vision, feel and smell of divine love, drawing to it many who yearn for God, even subconsciously. It gathers and comforts God's lost sheep.(6) Even though those who enter may feel bitter or victimized, they are drawn into the depths of their own soul, where their yearning for God dwells as an inner spark.
The Ashram incubates a person's yearning for God, until it crackles like a fire. Thus, the yearning for God becomes a central theme and purpose of life. The yearning expresses itself in regular practices,(7) cultivating the awareness of God's presence in each beautiful moment, in each aspect of creation, in each person, and especially in the heart of the seeker.
As the yearning for God grows, the seeker becomes immersed in God.(8) The thought, "Glory be to God, in the highest!" fills his heart. He dedicates his life and his actions to God. He stops feeling separate and begins building God's Kingdom on earth.(9)
As Gurumayi has said,
When we all gather here together [in the Ashram] it
seems in the beginning that we are strangers, that we don't
know one another, we have not seen one another before, at
least not in this life. Yet there is a feeling of familiarity: "I
know this. I have done this many times." This is the Principle
within. When it comes in contact with the same Principle in
another, there is a revolution.
When this revolution takes place, some of you feel
strange, some of you feel confused; others feel elated, and
still others, intoxicated. The manifestations of this revolution
differ according to different personalities. But what is
happening is one and the same: the awakening of grace
The crowning glory of the Ashram is the Guru.(11) Although the world thinks of the Guru as a person, she(12) is also an inner force, driving the seeker from inner darkness to inner light.(13) In meditation, we discover her in the lower heart and in the upper heart or Sahasra.(14) She moves and moves not; is inside everything and outside everything.(15) She is smaller than the smallest and greater than the greatest.(16) She is the Lord of the Universe and is the Supreme Deity.(17)
Baba Muktananda, who brought Siddha Yoga out of India, reminds us that the Guru is not just a separate person:
. . . The best kind of meditation on the Guru is to identify your
own Self with the Guru, to feel the Guru within you. Why don't
you worship the Guru within you instead of worshiping the Guru
outside? Don't you think that would be much better?
Everything depends on the intensity of your feeling, attitude,
and devotion. Whatever object your devotion is attached to, that
becomes God for you. . . . God is already in the heart of a human
being. If you worship Him within you, there is no reason why you
should not experience God, why you should not become Him.
A true Guru is not one who makes everybody his disciples
and keeps them in that condition even after leaving his physical
form. Only he is a true Guru who, having himself become a Guru,
takes discipleship away from his disciples and turns them into
beings like himself. . . . The true message of Guruhood is that no
one is a disciple. Everyone is the Guru. All are one. All are equal.
All are divine. That is the only genuine message. Every other
message is false.(18)
This mystical force of the Guru is present in all the world's great religions.(19) Gurumayi Chidvilasananda is a loving representative of this force.(20) Although there are many reasons to consider her Guru, I accept her for her loving effect on me and on others, particularly those closest to her.(21) She is a realized being whose love radiates. In her presence, people are transformed and know that they have found their own Guru.(22)
Gurumayi has the power to activate the grace within others or to give them "shaktipat." Shaktipat is the awakening of the Kundalini energy, found in its dormant form at the base of the spine. The awakening may be instantaneous, producing an experience of 1,000 suns, or it may be gradual. As Baba Muktananda said:
The Shakti [grace] is intelligent, conscious energy, so it knows
whom to grasp. The Shakti is aware of past and future; it knows
who is fit. . . . The more receptive your heart is, the purer it is,
the more you honor and revere the Shakti, the more quickly you
are caught by it.(23)
This concept of awakening energy is simple and not especially surprising. Baba Muktananda explained that:
If there is a poor man and a wealthy person gives him a bundle of
money, the poor man becomes wealthy immediately. In the same
way, a Guru gives his bundle of conscious energy to a disciple, and
he in turn becomes filled with energy. If a person's light is once
kindled, with that same light he can kindle many unlit flames. If
you have one lighted wick, you can light many other wicks. If you
stay with me just as I stayed with my Guru, you too can receive
energy and you can also give it to other people.(24)
In addition to giving shaktipat, Gurumayi is realized, living freely and naturally as her own Self. She carries her own cross.(25) Whether she is with a few people or with thousands, she has a light, natural sense of humor and is naturally humble. She trusts so fully in God that she falls fully into the truth of each moment, living God's will rather than being bound by a culturally determined identity thus, her actions are dharmic.
Gurumayi's love is abundant and readily available, wherever she lives or tours. When she stays at the Sri Muktananda Ashram, in South Fallsburg, New York, there are many opportunities to see her. For example, in January 1993, I visited the Ashram for a weekend. My stay included a scheduled Saturday evening program, in the main meditation hall, which Gurumayi might attend. Saturday afternoon my seva (selfless service to the Guru, as explained below) was to assist with lighting for the evening program. I positioned lights on either side of Gurumayi's chair, so she could be easily seen if she chose to attend. During the program, I occasionally had hopes of seeing Gurumayi.
During the first part of the evening program, people in the audience spontaneously spoke about two recent programs, the Christmas retreat and the New Year's intensive. The speakers and the swamis(26) who presented the program Swami Anantananda and Swami Indirinanda seemed to be floating in bliss, which flowed over into my heart, making me deeply aware that Gurumayi can radiate her grace without being physically present.
The events of the next day were unpredictable, but filled with Gurumayi's love. I felt enlivened, and every detail became an experience of God. I woke early, at 4 a.m., and put on the clothes I had carefully laid out.(27) The path through the woods to early morning meditation was frozen. Three ice clouds laced the lower part of the sky, in long, white, flattened layers. Directly overhead, a thin, filmy, cloud embraced the almost-full moon, collecting its glow in a circular, nighttime rainbow.
I meditated in the Nityananda Temple,(28) sang the Arati chant, silently enjoyed chai (spiced tea and milk), and sang the Guru Gita chant. My heart became warm and still from the Guru's love.
Then I did morning seva in the lighting department, sorting used lighting "gels" (colored sheets placed over stage lights to change their color) by size and color, to organize the used gels for future use. I enjoyed this seva, which gave me a new commitment to find time to make my own home feel more sacred and orderly.
After seva and lunch, the plans my wife and I had made to leave the Ashram were "disrupted" by Gurumayi, who visited the dish room for casual talk with the sevites.(29) We got up to look, but Mary Anna whispered, "Let's sit down again." When Gurumayi left the dish room, she came right to our table, turned to me and said, "You haven't been here for a long time, have you?" I agreed that I had not been at the Ashram for a year and a-half. Then Gurumayi asked Mary Anna about her health, remembering that almost two years ago Mary Anna had spoken of her chronic kidney failure and related problems.
When Gurumayi left the table, my breathing was deep, almost gasping, and I sobbed. Gurumayi had extended her heart to us simply and directly, through "polite conversation," and I was deeply touched.
Then, after a little while, Gurumayi settled cross-legged into a special chair near the dining hall, in a recently remodeled hall. She was in fine spirits, laughing freely, and about two hundred of us quickly sat down on the rug before her. She playfully said, "Well, what's the topic.", initiating a round of banter and information about recent events, including a description of the work of the Prasad Project, which was restoring sight for people near the Ganeshpuri Ashram in India by performing more than 100 eye surgeries per day.
At one point, a young man stood and asked, "What I would really like to know is how to have more faith in the Guru." Gurumayi said, "The real question is how you can have more faith in yourself." Then she asked the audience to help by saying what Baba Muktananda would have answered. People suggested that he could meditate or chant, or, "Honor yourself, worship yourself, meditate on yourself." Then I heard myself provide an additional answer: "See God in each other."
Gurumayi heard and asked, "How would that help?" I stood and said that when you see God in each other you begin to learn that there is only one God out there, gesturing with my hand to indicate all the people sitting around me. In this way, Baba Muktananda's frequent advice, "See God in each other.", took on special meaning for me.(30)
Similarly, I reflected on Gurumayi's earlier remark, "You haven't
been here in a long time, have you.", and I realized that I had not felt
at all pressured to come to the Ashram more frequently. My work is
principally outside the Ashram, where I want to experience the Guru
all the time. I felt affirmed that I felt close to the Guru even though I
had been physically separate from her.
The Ashram and the Siddha Yoga practices are of one spirit, and an understanding of the one requires understanding both. As Gurumayi has said:
Just being in the Ashram, there is such support from the Shakti.(31) No matter what happens, you feel you are being cradled in Her lap. No matter what goes on in your life, the Shakti is stroking your face and consoling you all the time, and you just sway in Her bliss. All this comes from sadhana, the practices.(32)
The Ashram is a place where Siddha Yoga practices are close at hand
and love for the Guru saturates the atmosphere, encouraging the
practices. It is a haven from the outside world, which considers the
Gurumayi teaches a living mantra, used silently and in chants. The mantra is a divine sound carrying the vibration of the Guru. As I repeat it, it fills me with warmth and love. It is responsive to the scriptural advice to "Always be joyful and never stop praying."(34) It replaces "negativities" the thoughts that so often filled my head before the mantra took over there.(35) The negativities I am most grateful for having lost are illusions of how my wife and son have victimized me: my wife, because her chronic kidney failure deprived me of a normal, healthy marriage; and my son, because he was always doing something "wrong" in my eyes.
These negativities kept me from loving them fully. The mantra has helped me to experience the greater love that we now find among us.(36) Mantra repetition has built up awareness of my own inner fires of love and has let love shine more freely in my life.
Gurumayi's principal mantra is, "Om Namah Shiviah," a salutation to Lord Shiva, who is the inner Self of all beings and is the vibration of consciousness that fills the universe. In chanting it, I at once revere my greatness as a creature of God, the greatness of all other people, and the greatness of the entire creation. As I walk along an Ashram path repeating it, as "japa," I experience the beauty of all things: leaves, patterns of sunshine, flowers, grass, my breathing, rocks, the sound of my own footsteps crunching the rocks of the path, the clouds, swans on the lake, patterns of light on the surface of water, the faces and movements of other people walking or running on the path.
Many ashramites use a "mala" (beads) to practice japa, or constant repetition of a mantra, said each time a bead is touched. For me, the beads become moments of time, reminding me that God touches every moment of my life.
There are other short mantras used at the Ashram.(37) Then there are longer mantras, sung at specified times of day, and performed with a one-pointed mind, sitting still and focused, realizing that God is present in each phrase. One of these chants, the Guru Gita, became a regular practice for me. I learned of it in the Perfect Relationships intensive, the first I took at the Ashram, one year after I first attended satsang. In the course, I met Gurumayi Chidvilasananda, who threaded her way to me through the meditation hall, during meditation, and touched my back where I hurt from sitting long hours with poor posture. I cried at her gentle touch. I began to understand that she would guide me, through the practices, both to better posture and to undreamed-of bliss.
When Gurumayi suggested we meditate and chant the Guru Gita daily, I was moved to obey. At first the Guru Gita was difficult in unfamiliar Sanskrit, containing difficult or doubtful concepts, having unfamiliar melodies, and being so long. After months of practice, the chant became blissful and inspirational and this "austerity" became a lovely gift from the Guru.
At the Ashram, people may meditate night and day in quiet, darkened meditation "caves."(38) These caves are solely for meditation and encourage deep meditation.
Meditation is listening to God.(39) It is a patient. It slows the mind and releases psychological "stress" that appears to come from life problems. It leads to knowledge of the true Self, which walks lightly among its "troubles" and which differs from the ego,(40) which vexes us and attempts to control us and creates the illusion that it is our true identity.
Meditation is a great gift from the Guru, who gives us the mantra, Om Namah Shiviah, to guide us to the deep place of meditation. Siddha meditation is filled with love for the Guru. It is not dry or mechanical, and it has been a constant surprise to me, both for the experiences it has offered and for its effect on my entire life.
Gurumayi says meditation is a way of showing our gratitude to God:
Even though there is a tremendous amount of grace in our
lives, still we need to acknowledge it. Meditation is a way of
showing our gratitude for what God has placed inside us, as well
as for what we have received from the outside. If we do not give
ourselves this time, we become restless. The soul needs its own
My meditation has helped me to know the Self or "the God within" or the Holy Spirit.(42) This is liberating. It is so vast that it feels like direct contact with the will of God. It represents an end of loneliness and to inner feelings of emptiness, anxiety and sadness.
Before I met Gurumayi and began self-inquiry, I had inner pain but was numb to it. It was my normal, accepted state. Through grace that I do not fully comprehend, that numbness drove me to action and I began to discover my Self. The discovery has been a deep, beautiful experience in which my pain has melted. Sometimes the melting has been palpable, feeling like a dark blanket of bliss descending on my body. Sometimes it has been slow and subtle.
My body seems stiller. Life seems simpler. I have begun enjoying
things I thought boring or mundane. I have been lifted out of my ruts,
feeling closer to others, dispersing the veil of the illusion that I am
different or strange or "outside." I have had an enormous amount of
energy for worship, Bible reading, my job, service, exercise, hobbies,
and the enjoyment of life.
Jesus answered, "The most important commandment says:
'People of Israel, you have only one Lord and God. You must
love him with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.'"(43)
Chanting is the means of attaining everything. Through chanting,
you are purified on the inside. Through chanting, love arises. If
love arises, it means that you have attained God, because God's
true nature is love. You sing His name so that love will arise.(44)
Chanting is singing the praises of God. You sing for God,(45) who may be praised by singing any of the many names by which he is known.(46) Chanting is the most direct route to God.(47) It also helps to warm the heart so that the companion practice, meditation, is filled with the feeling of love.(48)
Although Siddha Yoga practices include several long, sacred chants (Guru Gita, Shiva Mahimna, Rudram(49)), the "fast chant" is the crown of Siddha Yoga. The fast chant repeats, often for an hour or more, one or a few phrases glorifying God.(50) In a saptah, a group of people sings a chant for seven days and seven nights.
Often a chant starts slowly, becomes spirited, slows again, and ends with a fast passage and a final, slow, melodic verse. Typically, a drum and Indian finger cymbals carry the beat, and a selected group of singers leads the chant. The melody is played on a harmonium (a keyboard instrument played with air from a bellows), sometimes with help from an organ, a violin, a flute, and a tamboura.(51)
My experience of fast chanting has evolved. At first, chanting was an extension of my psychotherapy, in which I had learned to release sadness by howling like a wolf at the moon. (Really!) This howling, needed for my huge reservoir of sadness, had been very powerful. My therapist suggested that I could continue this process of release by throwing my emotions into the chants.
Although this use of chanting was helpful to me, it was loud and harsh for others. At the end of a chant a well-meaning disciple might approach me and ask me to sit in the rear of the hall in the next chant. Since I was loving the chant and knew I was doing it "right" I knew these well-meaning friends were "wrong." As I continued to chant, however, these feelings of being "wronged" were consumed by the fire of the chant, destroying a part of my ego, and making me grateful that my friends kept questioning me until I discovered the grace of melodic chanting.
At first, in addition to trying to howl, I also believed that I could not carry a tune. But I loved chanting and kept at it. I took two different chanting courses, one given by Gurumayi as special prasad(52) to Washington, D.C., devotees. Gradually, I understood that chanting could be so melodious that it would attract God to the chant. I began listening closely to my neighbors and to my own voice, relaxing my voice box, opening up my chest by proper posture, and chanting for melody rather than volume. I began to feel the warmth of love, from blending my voice with others until our voices became one voice, singing the praises of God.
Chanting is especially important because it absorbs my active
mind. As the chant fills me, other thoughts subside. The chant
becomes an active, blissful meditation. At times, I chant with my eyes
open, enjoying the flow of different emotions and moods as the chant
progresses. By being at times involved with the group and at times
gently absorbed in my own worship, continuing to sing but being more
indrawn, I began having a sense of the Self that did not depend on the
others. After the chant I felt a wonderful stillness, and I was also ready
to visit a deep place inside in silent meditation.
Meditation on the Guru is a practice of Siddha Yoga. It is like the meditation of "the worm on the wasp."(53) By meditating on the Guru, we learn to know our own Self. Ultimately, we become the Self, much as the "worm" or larva becomes the wasp.(54)
Because of my love for the Guru, I love her presence, the sights
and sounds and feelings of being near her, and especially the
shakti, the energy of grace. I hear almost every word she says and I
ponder them because they are filled with shakti and have the potential
for changing my entire life.(55)
At the close of many programs and courses, Gurumayi gives
people an opportunity to meet her, or "have her Darshan."(56) After my
first intensive with Gurumayi, I waited in line for Darshan, intending to
say something important like, "Thank you for being my Guru." But I
said simply, "Thank you." In response, Gurumayi smiled, reminding me
vividly of the gift of my mother's last smile, given to me when her coma
fleetingly lifted just before she died.
On occasion, on request, Gurumayi may grant a special Darshan, as she did for my wife, Mary Anna, and me after Mary Anna had abdominal surgery and had expressed a willingness to open her heart to the receipt of grace. We joined Gurumayi for 15 indescribable minutes in her Namaste Room, in the main building at the Ashram in South Fallsburg. Gurumayi greeted us and invited us to sit in front of her. Mary Anna on a chair and I felt more comfortable on the floor. Mary Anna began speaking, and as she did, my attention settled on her face and I felt enormous love for her, with tears flowing freely from my eyes. While she spoke, I focused on her, to the exclusion of Gurumayi, who was only a few feet away on my right. I was conscious of the presence of the Guru, who was in Mary Anna, as well as in Gurumayi.
Gurumayi asked about Mary Anna's illness. She inquired about the medical options for Mary Anna, including possibilities of a kidney transplant, and we gave an elaborate medical explanation. Gurumayi asked how I had held up through all this and said that not many husbands would have stayed with their wives under such circumstances. I said that I had not always been such a saint.
Mary Anna spoke to Gurumayi about how she had been investigating different Christian churches, each of which she had rejected because they not denied the possibility of salvation for non-Christians, such as me. Gurumayi listened intently, in silence, not commenting on these heartfelt statements.(57)
Much of our time with Gurumayi was filled with similar backyard, over-the-fence conversation, with a light, loving touch. Afterwards, Gurumayi gave us trail mix as prasad, or blessed food, and we followed her suggestion that we sit in meditation near Bagwan Nityananda's statue in the Temple.
The day after we returned home was a work day, but my whole body was vibrating and my heart was wide open. I stayed home under warm blankets and recovered (!), suffering from an intense, delicious sensation of love and healing.
As the impact of Gurumayi's Darshan settled into my being, I realized the depth of Mary Anna's concern about Christianity. I knew that Gurumayi does not teach a "religion" and permits complete freedom of religious choice. Out of love for Mary Anna, heightened during the Darshan, my heart opened to the possibility of accepting Christ. When Mary Anna subsequently began considering National Presbyterian Church, I listened to tape-recorded lessons of the orientation class, called NPC and Me. I opened to Christ, accepted Him as my savior, was baptized, and joined the church with Mary Anna.
Even before my conversion to Christ, I had Gurumayi's assurance
that sin is an illusion arising from incomplete understanding and from
acting from my desires rather than from spiritual awareness, which lets
us know what is "real." After I accepted Christ and was baptized,
Christ gave me total forgiveness for my sins.(58) I am grateful to
Gurumayi, for silent and permissive love that helped me to open to
Christ,(59) and I am grateful to Christ as my savior. I am grateful to both.
A few months passed, after our private Darshan, before Mary Anna and I returned to the Ashram for Mary Anna's first "intensive" course.(60) At the close of the intensive, Mary Anna and I sought Darshan, and we asked Gurumayi to bless our son, whom we love dearly and who has been an active addict and alcoholic. At Gurumayi's suggestion, we took a coconut and offered it to Bagwan Nityananda in the Temple, praying that the Guru would crack Ben's hard outer shell and expose the sweet meat within.
In the days following, I meditated and began laughing at myself, with the "new" realization that any time I asked for grace (or prayed) that I had to be prepared to do God's will in support of my own prayer. I also realized that my negative thoughts and words were contributing to Ben's hard shell. So I decided that every time I had such thoughts I would substitute mantra repetition for them.(61) And this, gradually, has worked. Benjamin less frequently hears tirades about all his recent sins. During this same time, Benjamin has been working on his recovery, and our relationship has improved somewhat. As I write, I realize that I still pray constantly for Ben, who is still struggling for his soul.
I am grateful that Gurumayi's Darshan and her blessings, together
with my willingness to immerse myself in the Siddha Yoga practices,
have contributed to the richness of my life.
Neither humility(62) nor gratitude,(63) both essentials for devotion, came to me easily. My Jewish parents, who had been scarred by anti-Semitism and by anger at the holocaust, raised me to believe that achievement was necessary for admiration and success. I felt that I needed to succeed every day of my life. Without even knowing it, I wore on my sleeve this basic form of insecurity or "neediness." I constantly needed both accomplishment and admiration.
I was an administrative judge, with a good income and considerable job security. I also was a Unitarian-Universalist Sunday school teacher and the head of the religious education committee of my church. Yet, I was not even aware of how separate I felt and how much I carried the burden of always trying to excel.
Until I was 45, I used social situations primarily to play the game of putting others down: politicians, merchants, service people, other lawyers, doctors, even God. My themes were how much I knew, how little they knew, how good I was, and how flawed they were. (I even felt superior to God, who made the "mistakes"(64) of permitting a holocaust, slavery, poverty, and homelessness!)
This condition helped bring me to my first satsung, in 1987, in Washington, D.C. I loved the chanting and meditation, but I had no relationship to the strange, empty chair for the Guru kept in the front of the meditation hall. The chair seemed idolatrous, and I would not bow before anything or anyone; nor would I travel two hundred miles to see the Guru in New York State.
As I began meditating and taking courses involving meditation, such as the Lifespring courses,(65) I saw that putting others down put me on a bleak pinnacle of false pride constantly striving, and lacking appreciation for others. I also saw that I felt I had to do it all by myself, like Sisyphus pushing a huge rock uphill all day and every morning starting once again at the bottom of the hill.
With continued exposure to chanting and meditation at the Washington, D.C., Siddha Yoga Center, I began to see that I did not have to be "better." I saw that in Siddha Yoga we are all equal, although I sometimes felt I didn't yet belong to the "in" group. I began respecting the people who came to chant. There was a glow of warmth about them, and their practice of bowing before the empty chair intrigued me. Their love for Gurumayi made me want to meet her.
I learned that by bowing before the empty chair I recognized the Guru and, simultaneously, the greatness in myself. So, magically, I changed my ideas about the humiliation of bowing.(66)
Later, I learned something else about bowing: that it puts the head below the heart, leaving the heart in a higher place. This was especially important for me because I believed that my active, judgmental mind was my entire identity. For many years, I had the illusion that I was the voice in my head that judged everything by my beliefs and opinions. It was through meditation(67) that I learned that I also exist, as the witness, in total silence. It was a relief to learn that I was not solely my mind, and bowing has helped to strengthen that belief.
When I went to the Ashram to see Gurumayi, I had two further experiences that filled me with the wonder and importance of Darshan. I saw Gurumayi enter the filled meditation hall, with more than 1,000 people expecting her. She quietly walked to the back of the hall, where there was a puja to Baba Muktananda, who had died in 1982. With every eye on her, she fell on the rug before her Guru's picture, stretching flat her entire body. Thus, she became the living lesson:
Prostrate fully before the Guru without reserve, and continually
serve the Guru with mind, speech and action.(68) . . .
To me, it was holy for Gurumayi to prostrate herself before her Guru, and I recall this image when I bow before Gurumayi or her empty chair.
The second important experience was watching Gurumayi greet people in Darshan. Each communication is filled with the greatest love. More than 1,000 people often wait for her Darshan, and each gets all her attention and love, often receiving just the perfect look, or a phrase that opens the heart or that promotes reflection for months. She is not contrived, false or on-stage and is spontaneous and loving.
Gurumayi described one experience that helps to explain how she can be so effective in giving Darshan. She said,
When you experience the Lord within yourself, He is seen in the form of a beautiful golden color. Last night as the sun was setting, as the darshan line was moving on, there was a magical moment. The sun had become a golden ball, so beautiful, without any obstructions. The sun was bestowing its rays, its grace, on all the people as they came down the line. And everyone's face was lit with this golden color from the sun. Everyone looked so beautiful. Often you do not get to see your own beauty. But as you come down the darshan line, I have that pleasure.(69)
How could I not bow before such a Guru? How could I not be grateful for her gifts to me and others?(70)
Seva, practiced at the ash rams and the Siddha Yoga centers, is service to the Guru and not just work. Seva is offered freely to the Guru to God. It is the intentional practice of, "Thy will be done."
Seva begins with the recitation of mantras; it is infused with the awareness of God. Seva teaches complete, prayerful absorption, without internal resistance. So whether I am chopping or peeling vegetables, washing dishes or big pots, carrying heavy objects between buildings, running a jackhammer, dragging chopped lumber, putting address labels on envelopes, sorting lighting "gels," tying balloons, telephoning people, or preparing a speech for a program, it is done in the same spirit: letting God do the work through me.
The spirit of seva is captured by Gurumayi in the following quotation from Jnaneshwar Maharaj:
The service of a true disciple has no limitations
of time and space.
When he is serving, he does not think
about day or night,
Nor does he regard any service
as either greater or lesser.
The harder the work the Guru gives,
the fresher and stronger he becomes.
Even though the work given him by the Guru
may be greater than the sky,
He completes it by himself.
The moment he receives the Guru's command
to perform any task
His body outruns his mind,
Competing with it to finish the work quickly.(71)
Although seva contributes to the work of the Ashram and the
Guru, its principal purpose is to develop a sense of Self. Ultimately, all
work becomes seva; it releases its illusory character of being boring,
repetitious, "beneath me," or not as good as being somewhere else. It
ends the feeling, "Thank God it's Friday." It is done freely and flows.
The spirit of seva heals all sense of hurt from the tasks of my life.
Satsang is simple: it is keeping the company of the wise.(72) It is
a reason that we go to Ashrams and centers to chant and meditate
together, to do seva together, and to eat and talk together. Yet
satsang is not entirely the external act of being present with others
who practice Siddha Yoga. True satsang is an inner experience: it is a
change in the inner world of thought so that we sink in the ocean of
God's name.(73) When we do that, we experience the bliss of being with
others who worship God in their heart, and we give up negative
thoughts about others, such as jealousy and judgment.(74) It is very
helpful to keep the company of the wise, particularly with right
There are many wonderful "intensives" and courses held at Gurumayi's Ashrams and centers. These spread the Guru's shakti her love and her light by providing information, encouraging reflection, and reminding people to increase their dedication to the Siddha Yoga practices.
Intensives, through which the Guru delivers shaktipat,(75) often last two days, from about 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. each day. They provide an opportunity to learn and practice meditation and chanting and to enjoy talks by Gurumayi or by disciples who are close to her. At some intensives, the Guru physically touches each student. At the end of the intensive, there is an opportunity for Darshan.
My first intensive was conducted by a "company" sent to Washington, D.C. by Gurumayi. What I recall most was a meditation following a video-taped lecture of Gurumayi talking about love as an ocean. My meditation began by seeing bombed-out buildings, representing the devastation of World War II and reminding me of the holocaust. I had held the holocaust against God and had made it a barrier to accepting Him. Then a massive wave of water swept over the buildings, covering them in swirling, white turbulence. That vision faded and I saw the cemetery at Normandy, with white markers standing above a grassy field. Then I saw still, blue, silent water slowly rise, until the markers were obscured and the surface was clear and shimmering.
For the rest of fifty minutes of meditation, I saw every form in which water is found in nature: rivers, streams, ocean views, lakes, surf. I was flying over this water, sometimes gliding low to the surface, sometimes soaring high. The sun and moon illuminated the water from many different angles, creating glistening effects.
In contemplation, afterwards, I saw this water as pervasive love and peace. It covered all things, even the tragedies that are hardest to recall. And it arose from within and filled me.
About one year later, I attended the Perfect Relationships intensive and met Gurumayi Chidvilasananda, as described above on ? of this chapter. It was at that intensive that I became more fully committed to the Siddha Yoga practices.
In addition to the intensives, I attended several courses, including a Blue Pearl Course in the summer of 1990 at South Fallsburg, while Gurumayi was in Ganeshpuri. One week before the course was to begin, Baba Muktananda visited me in meditation. He was sitting alone in a low-ceiling white room and gesturing to me to sit by him. I entered the room, sat beside Baba and rested my head on his lap. He rubbed his palms together above my ear, igniting a spark that exploded in my head and bathed me in his love.
During the Blue Pearl course, we were asked to meditate as the Guru, by imagining that our body was transformed, part by part, into Gurumayi's body. My meditation began with a vision of a close-up of the edge of the sun, brilliantly flaring out, again and again, in oranges and yellows into a deep purple background. Then, I could see the surface of the sun boiling, as water boils. That image faded into a roiling waterfall, whose texture was reminiscent of the surface of the sun illustrating Gurumayi's teaching that all things, including water and the sun, have the same fundamental building block: consciousness itself.(76) Afterwards, I saw many beautiful natural places in full color and three dimensions. I also traveled through a serene blue world, where people appeared in God's presence after traveling though a long tunnel. As they emerged from the darkness of the tunnel, their bodies burst into brilliant white light.
At the close of this amazing meditation, feeling serene and fully reconciled to my own death, I went to the Temple and kneeled before Bagwan Nityananda's statue. Suddenly, two white propellers whirled inside my temples. Then I saw twelve, highly-polished rectangular brown gem stones, with white horizontal striations, set in gold with a braided pattern on the top edge. These beautiful stones were covered by about a quarter-inch of crystal-clear water, with raindrops gently falling on its surface. As I reflected, I saw that all people are beautiful, seen singly or with others; that we all have unique characteristics, or striations; and that we are all equal.(77) We are also covered with grace,(78) which is always still falling.
Shortly after this vision, I attended an Abishek, or ritual bathing, of Bagwan Nityananda. As I watched the bathing, I felt that all the attention lavished on this statue was wasted, since so many living people need attention more. Then I thought:
Oh! So that is the lesson. I am such a baby in learning
to love. All this love for a statue is a sublime example of
how much love I also could lavish on people.
Then I looked again at Nityananda, seeing his left profile. As I did so, I saw in Nityananda's eyes the same twinkle that my father's eyes had when he was playing with little children and when he played with me when I was little. I cried profusely, healing a rift I built between me and my father for many years before he died. I saw right through my negativities into my father's clear, and I began alternately crying and rejoicing. I felt during the chant that all these people, clapping ecstatically, were rejoicing for my father -- who also is Nityananda, as we all are Nityananda. And I had this thought about Nityananda: "He was a man." So simple. So unobtrusive. He was himself. Yet, how few of us play our self with such grandeur and dignity. What an example: just to be our self.
All this occurred during just one course, which was not yet over.
In the same course, I felt the exhilaration of silent japa(79) walks on the
Ashram paths. As I silently repeated the mantra, every leaf and flower,
every step and every breath became sacred. Then after hesitating
for two days I bought a Rakhi Day bracelet for my wife, confronting
a major inner barrier to God. I had felt burdened because of Mary
Anna's chronic illness, from which I felt a need to protect her. I
realized that I could give her the bracelet and ask her, according to the
custom of Rakhi Day, to protect me. After buying the bracelet, I
rested in my room and a warm blanket of bliss filled my body, staying
with me for ten consecutive days even while my teeth were scaled
by a dental hygienist!
For more than five years, I have taken the Siddha Yoga Correspondence Course, written by Ram Butler. Each month I receive two new lessons, usually eight to ten pages, single-spaced. As I read these lessons, I feel Gurumayi's shakti. The lessons discuss concepts that help me to apply Siddha Yoga to my life. I read the two lessons, plus review lessons that are suggested. Then, during the month, I return to the lessons and review them several times.
In addition to the Correspondence Course, I receive Darshan Magazine, an artistic, lovingly prepared publication. Articles often touch me, filling my eyes with tears. As my understanding has deepened, I have found that the magazine is a form of Darshan with Gurumayi. Through its words and pictures, I feel her presence.
I have read other shakti-filled literature, including books I have
cited in this book. There are also videotapes of Gurumayi, CDs and
tapes of chanting, books of chants, pictures of the Guru, incense,
special cloth asanas (cloths for sitting on) for use while meditating,
covers for devotional books, fragrant yogic oils, and malas (strings of
beads) for japa (repetition of the mantra). All have assisted my
devotion to the Guru.
So far, I have not mentioned the Ashram's appearance, but the Sri Muktananda Ashram in South Fallsburg can be visited solely for its beauty. The Ganeshpuri Ashram, near Bombay, India, is said to be even more beautiful.
The Sri Muktananda Ashram has:
a "silent path" through the woods, connecting two of the
a large, natural-wood dining hall in which tasty and lovingly
prepared vegetarian dishes are served;
a large "Shakti Mandap" in which students can enjoy
programs and see nature through huge glass side walls;
the "Muktananda Mandir," a large meditation hall that has
been specially designed and decorated to induce meditation,
for great acoustical properties that make speakers easy to
hear, and for effective use of live video and videotape;
the Nityananda Temple, containing Bagwan Nityananda's
statue, to which people come for meditation and chanting,
from about 3:30 a.m.;
a meditation garden containing statues of great beings,
including Christ, Moses, Mary, Krishna, Gandhi, Martin
Luther King, Hanuman and Gonesh.(80)
living accommodations, including individual rooms, two-person rooms, family accommodations, and dormitories;
a Seva Office, from which people may obtain seva
assignments, especially for the morning and afternoon times
set aside for seva;
several meditation "caves" in which people meditate day or
bookstores that sell literature, recorded chants, videotapes
and sacred objects.
The grounds are beautifully landscaped and are being improved to
create outside areas for devotional dancing and meditation. There is
a regular shuttle bus among the buildings, and special arrangements are
made so handicapped people can attend the programs and negotiate
The purpose of the Ashram is to support people in experiencing God. It exists for its guests. As we sing in the holy chant, the Guru Gita, at verse 158:
Sa eva ca Guruh saksat
sada sadbrahma vittamah,
Tasya stanani sarvani
pavitrani na samsayah.
He (the devoted disciple) himself becomes the Guru. (Then) he
is always the foremost among the knowers of Brahman. There
is no doubt that for him all places are holy. [Internal emphasis
Many of the practices help the disciple learn that the Ashram is not its walls and fields. We are urged to practice mantra everywhere:
One who goes to sleep repeating the mantra will find he is
repeating it when he wakes up. If it is not going on, repeat the
mantra and then get up. When you wash your face, repeat the
mantra; when you drink your coffee, repeat the mantra; when
you eat your breakfast, repeat the mantra. Travel to your office
repeating the mantra; enter your office repeating the mantra;
leave your office repeating the mantra; come back home
repeating the mantra. When you sit down to eat a meal, first
repeat the mantra eleven times and blow on the food; that will
purify it. It will permeate your food with mantric vibrations.(81)
The practices of the Ashram are for use everywhere. We keep a puja in our homes and remember that homes are sacred and may be entered with our right foot first, as we would enter the Nityananda Temple. We bless our food before every meal, whether or not we are at home, by repeating the mantra eleven times and remembering that our food is prasad, a gift from God, and is blessed.(82) We also remember to take care of our body, as it is the temple of the soul and the creator dwells within it.(83)
As Baba Muktananda has said,
[I]f you chant when you are at home, it will make your entire
house very clean and pure. It is not just temples and churches
and mosques that should be places of prayer. Every place
including your home should be a place for prayers. Your home
should become a temple. Then in this very world you will
perceive heaven; you won't need another heaven.(84)
We chant the Guru Gita and meditate in the mornings at home, practice the constant awareness of God, and see God in one another. We remove our shoes when we worship to remind ourselves that we are on holy ground,(85) and we go to Siddha Yoga centers to share the practices with others. We obtain Darshan through our devotion to an empty chair or to a puja, whenever Gurumayi is not physically present; and we read the Correspondence Course and Darshan magazine. We make all of our work seva, a free offering to the Guru.
Siddha Yoga teaches us to observe the spirit and practices of the Guru everywhere. Gurumayi teaches the awareness of perfection and grace and the practice of gratitude, rather than seeing life cynically and pitying ourselves. Instead of concentrating on what is wrong, we learn to be satisfied and grateful for what we have and for the opportunity to play our part in making a better world. Gurumayi teaches contentment.(86) She teaches a great mantra that alerts us to the greatness of our world:
Om purnamadah, purnamidam
Om. This is perfect. That is perfect.
From the perfect springs the perfect.
If the perfect is taken from the perfect,
the perfect remains.
In this way, we practice seeing everything as perfect: even our troubles and "hardships," which are gifts to us to help us discover our own Self.
Gurumayi also reminds us of how much we have to be grateful for:
When you receive something great from inside, gratitude
wells up along with it. We lack gratitude in our lives even more
than we lack the awakening of our inner energy. We receive so
much from God, we receive so much from nature, we receive so
much from other people, yet we are ungrateful. Ingratitude
causes most of the miseries in our lives, even more than
ignorance of the inner Self. We take, take, take, but we never
understand how much we have taken.
When we receive grace, it creates the grace of gratitude
within us. This gratitude takes many forms: It takes the form of
love and the form of compassion; it takes the form of a way of
life. Gratitude gives life to living. Often we are dead while living,
but gratitude brings us to life.(87)
Grace is the highest element that exists throughout this
universe. Because of grace, the sun and moon shine. Because of
grace, the waves leap up and down. Because of grace, volcanoes
erupt and mountains are created. The earth itself wants to reveal
its joy. Because of grace there is such beauty in Nature, in human
beings, and in animals. Because of this grace, compassion
pervades all times, places and objects. Because of grace there is
love in everyone.(88)
With gratitude, a marvelous thing happens. We develop deep, spiritual patience and we begin always to experience the vibration of grace:
The quality of patience should become very natural, a matter
of course for a disciple. You do not consciously say, "This is
happening, so I'm going to be patient. I'm going to watch and
wait and see what happens." Instead, patience should become the
core of your being. Then whenever anything happens, you have
the ability to be patient. Patience is not something you command
yourself to do; it is a miracle that takes place within, through
Patience brings about serenity and tranquility, and from
serenity and tranquility still greater patience arises. . . .(89)
[W]e are able to experience the vibration of grace all the
time. . . . Grace is always tingling within us. We become aware
of this tingling sensation in our body which makes us laugh with
feelings of great joy and love.(90)
When I recently visited the Ashram, Gurumayi said to me, "You haven't been here for a long time, have you." I agreed with her. A few weeks later, I heard Ram Butler, the author of the Correspondence Course, describe the grace a person feels when he is asked to wait near the Guru's chair. After I reflected, I said, "I realize that I am always sitting near the Guru's chair. Only my sense of limitation requires me physically to be sitting close to it." It is my commitment to deepen my awareness that both the Guru and the Ashram are everywhere. And I love to visit Gurumayi's Ashram.
1. New Jerusalem Bible John 3: 5-8.
2. Job 38-40, throughout.
3. Matthew 7: 15-20 ("I repeat, you will be able to tell them by their fruits.") John 6: 44 ("No one can come to me/ unless drawn by the Father who sent me,/ and I will raise that person up on the last day.")
4. Gurumayi, Kindle My Heart I at 100-101.
5. Gurumayi, Kindle My Heart II, at 320; Mark 1:9-13 (God's spirit makes Jesus go into the desert for "forty days" to struggle with Satan.); Acts 14:22; Romans 12:11-12; 1 Corinthians 9:24-27.
6. See Psalm 23.
7. See below, beginning on page 14.
8. In Christianity, the God within is known as the Paraclete, Holy Spirit, Holy Ghost, or comforter. See, below, page 7, at footnotes 13.
9. Gurumayi quotes Tukaram Maharaj concerning the effect of the
complete experience of the Truth, in Kindle My Heart I, at 57:
Now I live only for the sake of humanity,
Just to help.
10. Gurumayi, Kindle My Heart II, at 216.
11. The Guru may also be called God, the Self (or Atman), Christ, the Paraclete, the Holy Ghost, Allah, Buddha, Ba'ha'u'llah, Shiva, Shakti, Yahweh, Elohim, El Shaddai, Consciousness, Abba (father), the Witness, the light, Krishna, Rama, Govinda, Gopala, Muktananda and many other names, none of which describe God's true glory, which is beyond all names.
12. Neither God nor the Guru has any gender. They are beyond words. When I think of the Guru in connection to Gurumayi, I naturally use the feminine gender to refer to her. In other contexts, I also use the masculine gender.
13. Guru Gita verses 10, 23, also 46, 107. The inner guru is the same as the Paraclete, comforter, Holy Spirit or Holy Ghost referred to in John 14: 15-21 ("But you know the Spirit, who is with you and will keep on living in you."), 25-26 ("The Spirit will teach you everything and will remind you of what I said while I was with you.").
14. Guru Gita verses 91-92 (also 93), 57-58.
15. Guru Gita verse 62.
16. Guru Gita verse 63.
17. Guru Gita, Verses 75, 77.
18. Muktananda, From the Finite to the Infinite I, at 230. See John 14:15-17. (The Holy Spirit is in you and will show you what is true.) John 14:12. (You will do the same things as I [Jesus] am doing, and even greater things.)
19. In Christianity, the "Guru" is called the Holy Spirit. See, above, at page 7, footnotes 13.
20. Her name means the bliss of the play of consciousness.
21. Gurumayi cites the Guru Gita for the proposition that an enlightened being is brahmanandam, the bliss of the Absolute; paramasukadam, the giver of happiness at all times; and kevalam jnanamurtim, the embodiment of knowledge, the embodiment of the Truth. Gurumayi, Kindle My Heart II, at 190-91.
22. Muktananda, From the Finite to the Infinite I, at 8; also, personal experience.
23. Muktananda, From the Finite to the Infinite I, at 38. See also Mark 4: 1-20 (story about the farmer and the seeds falling on different kinds of ground); John 3:5-8 (the experience of being born from above).
24. Muktananda, From the Finite to the Infinite I, at 19. Although shaktipat may be considered a transfer of energy, which is what appears to happen, another way to understand it is as a lifting of the veil of illusion that keeps a person from realizing the energy of God that has always been within them. Id. I at 24, II at 347 (cutting the knot of the heart); Gurumayi, Kindle My Heart I at 13-14. It may also be thought of as a spreading of spiritual light. Matthew 5: 14-16; John 8:13; Act 3: 1-10.
25. Matthew 16: 24-26. Gurumayi surrendered her life entirely to her Guru and in doing so gave up her life in order to save it. My experience is that she is one with the father, with God, with the Guru, with Christ.
26. There is a small group of men and women who are swamis, most of whom took monks' vows from Swami Muktananda and who wear distinctive orange robes. The swamis often participate in Siddha Yoga programs, along with lay followers, some of whom serve full-time on the ashram staff.
27. Carefully laying out clothes for meditation is a highly useful practice that helps to ensure that I will fulfill my commitment to my early morning practices.
28. The temple is a memorial to Baghwan Nityananda, who was Muktananda's guru. It contains a statue of Nityananda.
29. About three years ago, a friend was cleaning dishes and Gurumayi rolled up her sleeves and began cleaning dishes beside her. A glance from the Guru's eyes gave my friend an unmistakable experience of shaktipat.
30. Muktananda wrote that the Guru's inner feeling flows out through his words. Muktananda, From the Finite to the Infinite II at 386. It is my experience that the words I have spoken to the guru also are activated by the Guru's shakti and take on special significance.
31. The spiritual power that creates and maintains the universe.
32. Gurumayi, Kindle My Heart I, at 123.
33. 33As we begin practicing Siddha Yoga we are likely to consider ourselves to be the "seen," caring that the world considers our practices strange. As we grow in the practices, we live actively as the "seer," and are less affected by the opinions of others. As reported in the Siddha Yoga Correspondence Course, Lesson 7, page 9: "Baba once said: There are two things which prepare a seeker for hell. The first is his sense of self-importance and the second is his craving for the good opinions of others." See Matthew 6:19-21, 25-34; James 4:4.
34. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-17.
35. Muktananda, From the Finite to the Infinite II, at 389-90 (strengthening the mind through meditation and mantra), also I, at 162 (repeat mantra obstinately to bring the mind to heel).
36. Our love is still far from perfect, and this is particularly painful to my son, who is troubled by addiction and would prefer greater acceptance from me.
37. Two other mantras are "Guru Om" and "Hamsah." The phrase "Hamsah," with constant repetition, may also sound like "So'ham" the two phrases mean: I am that; that is me. This mantra celebrates unity between the individual soul and the Self of the universe it reminds me that I am one with everything and everyone around me. Muktananda, From the Finite to the Infinite I, at 163.
38. Each cave has a puja, which is an area of the room et aside for worship of the Guru, usually containing a picture of Gurumayi plus other sacred pictures or objects, as well as an incense holder and a small container in which a light is burned. These are not Gods or idols; they serve as reminders of God, much as the huge cross hung from the ceiling in my church.
39. Muktananda, From The Finite to the Infinite I, at 101:
There is a gap between one thought and another. Have you ever thought about the stillness and stability that exist in the space between two thoughts?
Of course, we don't take time in our lives to think about it. That is the Self. That is God. That is the Truth. That is Self-realization.
40. The ego is the separate identity with its "characteristics": father,
wife, supervisor, athlete, fat person, ill, unemployed, President, award-winner, intelligent, stupid. It is the ego which takes life very seriously
and that suffers. The ego can be powerless over alcohol it is the
seat of alcoholism or addiction. The ego can be an abused child, a rape
victim, a cripple, etc.
The Self, once it is known, is one with God or the Holy Spirit. It is a part of us that can never be hurt by the external world. It is stainless and unharmed. It has divine understanding and is the source of wise choices. It is quiet and unmoved in the midst of chaos. It is an anchor in any storm. It is far beyond the power of words to describe. It just is.
41. Gurumayi, Kindle My Heart I, at 53.
42. John 3:4 ff.
43. Mark 12:29-30, which continues: "The second most important commandment says: 'Love others as much as you love yourself.'" Deuteronomy 6:4-9. (Love God with all your heart, soul and strength; keep these words in your heart and mind at all times.) See Ephesians 5:19 (praise the Lord with all your heart); Revelations Chapter 4 (four living creatures and 24 elders constantly sing to God); Daniel 3:24 ff. (song of Azariah in the furnace).
44. Muktananda, From the Finite to the Infinite I, at 139.
45. Muktananda, From the Finite to the Infinite I, at 144.
46. Gurumayi, Kindle My Heart I, at 81-85. Muktananda, From the Finite to the Infinite I, at 91 (Everyone describes the same one in different ways.); see also 153 (moslem chant), 140-141, 145 (the power of repeating God's name even without understanding what the name means).
47. Muktananda, From the Finite to the Infinite I, at 142.
48. Gurumayi, Kindle the Heart II, at 241-2.
49. The simple meaning of the Rudram is that whatever exists in this world is nothing but Shiva (or God). Muktananda, From the Finite to the Infinite I, at 146-47.
50. The names of God used in the chant are varied and most are derived from the Indian culture. The Westerner who finds this strange may remember that Bible uses many names for God. Since the Tower of Babel, many names have been used for this experience, which goes beyond words. The names of God are many.
51. The tamboura is a tall stringed instrument with a vibrating sound that has healing properties. Muktananda, From the Finite to the Infinite I, at 152, 223.
52. Prasad is a special blessing from the Guru. See also page 39, below.
53. Guru Gita verse 118.
54. The Guru is like a living affirmation. The "affirmation," found in some liberal churches and personal-improvement courses, is a phrase that is repeated so that the person will take on the characteristics of the phrase. For example, a person who feels unworthy might repeat the affirmation, "I am worthy." To some extent, this is like a mantra, although it often is repeated far less often than the constant use of a mantra, and the affirmation lacks sacred vibration.
An affirmation, like meditation on the Guru, attempts to change a person's state. However, it relies on the meaning of words. Meditation on the Guru is more vivid, focusing on the Guru, who contains the desired state within her. Thus, meditation on the Guru helps to make our own inner Self available to us.
55. See above, pages 10, 19, at footnotes 27, 28, 51.
56. "Darshan" means "viewing"; it is the experience of being in the presence of a holy person.
57. A true Guru is not interested in monopolizing disciples and is interested only in their progress. Muktananda, From the Finite to the Infinite I, at 61.
58. These "ideas" about life and salvation affect the matrika shakti the power of letters on the mind. I have learned to accept that two apparently contradictory concepts could each have a positive impact on my mind. See Muktananda, From the Finite to the Infinite I, at 142-43.
59. In opening me to accept Christ, Gurumayi was doing God's work, as defined in the Christian Gospels. John 6:44. ("No one can come to me, unless the Father who sent me makes them want to come.")
60. See page 31 for a discussion of intensives.
61. Baba taught that mantra could help with evil thoughts. Muktananda, From the Finite to the Infinite I, at 170-171.
62. Gurumayi, Kindle My Heart I, at 145-6; Matthew 5:5, 20:25-28; Luke 14:11, 21:16; Philippians 2: 8-9.
63. Gurumayi, Kindle My Heart II, at 325; Psalm 8; 1 Thessalonians 5: 16-18. See also page 41 ff., below.
64. I have learned not to question the will of God with respect to hardship for either individuals or large groups of people. When I accept that hardships are consistent with the will of God, whose motives are far beyond my fathoming, I can be grateful for my blessings and have more energy to do God's work in overcoming those hardships. See Job 38: 5-30; Muktananda, From the Finite to the Infinite II, at 431. ("If you consider the evils done to you as a gift from God, and if you endure them, they become very good for you.")
65. Lifespring is a profit-making private corporation that offers courses that teach intense self-examination and meditation. Its courses were important in getting me started on my own path and I continue to be grateful to it and to recommend that others take these courses.
66. See Luke 14:11 and 18:14; John 13:5 ([H]e [Jesus] then poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples feet and to wipe them with the towel he was wearing.); Luke 7:38; James 4:6; Gurumayi Kindle My Heart I, 145-46.
67. My first realization occurred in the "Est" course, whose successor is now called "The Forum." This was the first course I took that taught me to reflect and to meditate.
68. Guru Gita verse 28.
69. Gurumayi, Kindle My Heart II, at 304-305.
70. An idol is any object, thought or way of behaving that is held in a higher place than God. In Christianity, we use a cross to remind us of God; and we also use the blood and body of Christ during communion. 1 Corinthians 10:14-17. These are not idols. Similarly, in Siddha Yoga, we use the Guru and the Guru's picture and chair to remind us of God. These are not idols.
71. See Proverbs 31: 10-31, describing how a woman does "seva" in the context of an ancient society.
72. See 2 Timothy 2:22; Proverbs 13:20.
73. Gurumayi, Kindle My Heart I, at 79-80.
74. Muktananda, From the Finite to the Infinite I, at 82, 174-175. See also James 4:11; James Chapter 3, especially verses 9-12; also James 4:1-2.
75. The meaning of shaktipat is discussed beginning on page 9.
76. Gurumayi, Kindle My Heart I at 16.
77. See 1 Corinthians 12: 4-21; Proverbs 22:2.
78. John 3:16-17; 1 John 4: 7-12; 1 John 2:2 ("He is the sacrifice to expiate our sins,/ and not only our sins,/ but also those of the whole world.")
79. See page 15, above, for another discussion of japa.
80. All of the Hindu Gods are aspects of the one God, displaying one of his facets (much as Christians believe that the Holy Spirit is an aspect of God). Hanuman is a monkey God who was very faithful to Rama. Gonesh, an elephant-faced God, bestows the blessing of removing obstacles.
81. Muktananda, From the Finite to the Infinite I, at 167.
82. Constant awareness that food is prasad makes eating sacred and dieting natural and worshipful. A starting point for yogic dieting is awareness that the Self is the same in all people, regardless of their weight. Gurumayi, Kindle My Heart II, at 255. Providing that this consciousness is maintained, an excellent way to diet is to stop eating when a bite does not feel like prasad. You can also remember to keep the digestive fire burning by not quenching it by filling the stomach too much. See Muktananda, From the Finite to the Infinite I at 212; II, at 388-89; Gurumayi, Kindle My Heart II at 354; I at 21-22, 27; 1 Corinthians 10:31.
83. Gurumayi, Kindle My Heart II at 308-309; 1 Corinthians 3:16-17, 6:19-20.
84. Muktananda, From the Finite to the Infinite I, at 146. Note that Baba's sentiment about heaven on earth is consistent with the Lord's prayer, taught by Jesus Christ: ". . . Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven."
85. Exodus 3:5 and Joshua 5:15; see also Genesis 28: 13-17.
86. See 1 Timothy 6:5-10.
87. Gurumayi, Kindle My Heart I, at 8.
88. Gurumayi, Kindle My Heart II, at 216.
89. Gurumayi, Kindle My Heart I, at 169.
90. Gurumayi, Kindle My Heart II, 232-33.