Monday, October 8, 2012

Getting to Know Gurudev

Yesterday I spent a lot of time with Sri Swami Satchidananda. In the morning I honored his spirit at the morning puja and ate his food: digestive biscuits, sweet coffee, banana, and almonds. The coffee was the most revealing as it was prepared just for him. It's the kind of intimacy experienced when your father or grandfather lets you try his drink. You learn a lot about his preferences. So, here was a man who liked a high quality particular bean brewed well and then highly sweetened. There was some kind of creamer like milk or soy milk, too. He pampered himself with the coffee and he was very precise about how it should be put together.

At noon I saw his beautifully landscaped home (no photos allowed) arranged to very particular specifications. Water running down a hilly rocky trace into the ground. An abstract sculpture made of car exhaust fittings in the shape of an archway. Some kind of metal casting that looked like a squid in the wind.

Inside, a huge intricately carved panel depicting part of an ancient Indian saga across the room from an original oil by Peter Max, who was a good friend. A couple of images of his guru in between modest sculptures and art of great expertise and emotion arranged on two walls of bookshelves.

His chair was situated so that he could face guests while at the same time gazing through a wall of glass over his domain of shrines and rolling hills. A telephone ready close beside him. A man of action. One who took a personal interest in the day-to-day affairs and yet let others get on with their work.

I sensed an incredibly deep calm love for everything and everyone; an effusive abiding compassionate love that pierces to the core of the secret heart. Also, some anger and frustration. Well, who wouldn't be when trying to make the world a better place?

Most revealing was his voice. As the Swami had prepared for puja earlier that morning she played an endless recording of Gurudev chanting "Om hreem Nama sivaya." It was a resonant, calm, full-bodied voice speaking each word with perfect attention and devotion. Not a single syllable was curtailed. The concluding "ya" was given a subtle flourish as if to say "I love every nook and cranny of your name and can't wait to speak it again." The tone projected a deep confident faith in and devotion to god.

People talk of charismatic leaders as if it were a pejorative. His charm, even from a distance, was his sincere belief in and affection for God. Highly contagious and deeply inspiring.

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