Jai’s Blog – May 15, 2009

When I was a young teenager just beginning to explore the ‘spiritual path’ I was more than willing to believe anything anyone told me. In fact I was thirsty for any words that would take me outside of myself, away from the Jai I knew and turn me into a bigger, better, and preferably blonder version of myself. I thought meditation, chanting, and holding my breath for as long as humanly possible would quickly obliterate the being I disliked so much and transform him (me!) into a golden orb of power and love. A god among men… I’m not sure, but it kind of seems like this was a very convoluted mixture of deep past life memories as a yogi in India and equally deep childhood traumas and wounds. So of course when a guru came forward with a written guarantee of enlightenment THIS LIFETIME if I just followed some very simple steps I positively leaped at the opportunity. Wow!!!!! I believed every word and ‘signed’ the contract.

Well, needless to say, this didn’t quite work out as planned and pretty soon I was wondering around India at the ripe old age of nineteen with no agenda, no guru and no worries. “Been there done that” is what I thought about the whole subject of gurus…

A few days later I stepped into a spiritual bookstore in New Delhi and began to browse the shelves that seemed to contain every book ever written about Yoga, Hinduism, Bhatia, Shanty, Shiva, Java, Mantra, Mantra, and Tanta. The bookseller gave me concise descriptions about each and every one until I finally asked him in awe how he had had the time to read all of these books. “That is the amazing thing” he laughed, “I haven’t read a single bloody one of them!” Oh boy, I thought, only in India…

Anyway, this bookseller must have been Lord Hanuman in disguise because he then proceeded to guide me to a hotel in the heart of town where Ram Dass was teaching, which led me to the glorious medieval village of Vrindavan where Krishna played with His Gopis, which led me to my guru, Baba Neem Karoli… (This is definitely making a long story very short!)

Anyway, I started this out by talking about beliefs. My guru never demanded that we ‘believe’ anything, just that we “love people and feed them” and always tell the truth. He never gave lectures or discourses but he asked us to give him our anger and to try not to worry, because he would always be with us. And he told us to sing God’s names. And when we were done singing to sing more, and more, and more…

We westerners laughed, joking that Maharajji was just trying to keep us out of trouble, get us out of his hair for a while. But inwardly each one of us could feel the subtle and not so subtle transformation-taking place.

Little by little, as our hearts began to heal, Maharajji’s ‘instructions’ began to occur on their own. And for myself this process has continued, sometimes slowly, sometimes quickly, as I’ve made my rather stumbling way through the back alleys of my life.

About fifteen years ago, over twenty years after Maharajji had left his body, I was in South India visiting my spiritual mother, who was taking care of Maharajji’s ashrams since his death. Though she herself is a being of great saintliness, she prefers to stay somewhat hidden from the public eye. So for now I’ll simply call her Ma. Anyway, one morning Ma said to me through an interpreter “Hurry up, Jai. Pack a small bag. We’re going to Rameshwaram!” Rameshwaram is an island off of the southern tip of India. Though very small, it is considered an extremely powerful place of pilgrimage, as it was here that Lord Ramachandra worshipped Lord Shiva after destroying the demon armies and the evil ten-headed king, Ravana. It was also from these soft sandy shores that the great monkey Hanuman made His death-defying leap across the ocean to bring Rama’s ring to His beloved Sita, imprisoned in Ravana’s blood-stained gardens. AND it was also a sixteen-hour train ride in a third class non-AC cattle car sleeping on a hard, vermin infested bench…. Oh well, my mother asked me to come and I was honored.

In those days I had been re-reading the Ramayana and finding many deep truths and spiritual messages in the ancient words of Tulsidas. But where earlier, when I had actually been sitting at the feet of my guru, I had basked in the living reality of the story, now I found myself relating to it almost psychologically, as a glorious tale of archetypes, a grand enlightened mythology, but surely not literally “true”. All this changed very rapidly when we landed on the shores of the holy island. First Ma took me and my fellow travelers (mostly Indians with perhaps two other Westerners) to an old broken down ruin a little ways outside of the town. Seagulls were swooping down around the rubble looking for treats as a few elderly pilgrims made their rounds, mumbling prayers, turning ‘japa’ beads. “This was Bibhishan’s palace” Ma said with a slight glance in my direction. My inner world trembled and I knew that something ‘strange’ was beginning to happen to me. Bibhishan, Ravana’s brother, a demon who loved God with all his heart and soul, who stopped Ravana from killing Hanuman and who was coronated by Rama Himself as the new King of Lanka. One of Shri Ramachandra’s eternal companions. The energy in those old stones was palpable…

Next Ma took us to a dirty pool of old brackish water and, sitting down on the ‘ghat,’ said that this was where Lakshman, Rama’s brother used to bathe. She added that Maharajji, who was once called Lakshman Das, used to take his baths here as well. Then to the forest where Mother Sita worshipped the snake goddess. Then to the point high up in the hills where Rama made His battle plans. And finally to a very large indentation in the ground carefully tended by a seemingly ageless ‘pujari’ who was lighting incense and singing prayers. “What’s this about”, I wondered. Ma seemed to hear my thoughts. “This is Hanuman’s own footprint! You know, the force of His leap was so great that the very mountain upon which we are standing was smashed into the earth, that all the animals, even the mighty elephants, fled for their lives, and that all the trees and plants and flowers were pulled across the sea behind Him like the tail of a giant comet!” My heart was pounding in my chest. Archetype? Myth? No, I thought, this was true history, a divine ‘lila’ that occurred for the salvation of all. I felt it and knew it with my whole being. Tears sprung from my eyes.

Truly, this was one of the most wonder-filled and awe inspiring journeys of my whole life. But I must be honest and say that that inner knowledge, that TOTAL belief, seems to wax and wane inside of me. Sometimes as I sing I SOOOOO much feel the presence of Radha and Krishna, or Shiva, or Hanuman, and at other times my songs are taking me deep into the caverns of my own heart, my soul. And you know what? It really doesn’t matter that much to me at all. I understand that my mind is a limited mechanism and that the spirit within can only comprehend the miraculous realm of the spirit. One time, at our winter Kirtan Camp in Guatemala, a woman said she was having trouble because she was an atheist and we were spending all of our time singing to this blue god and that four-armed goddess. I laughed inwardly and wondered what on Earth she was doing there! But we talked for a while about the practice of Kirtan, how healing it is, how heart expanding and joyful it can be. And I remembered something I had read once in a novel about a rabbi in Israel after World War Two. He simply could not believe in a God who would allow the Holocaust, but he “still believed in the power of prayer”. In some ways this makes no sense, because who answers the prayers? But on another level it acknowledges an alternate world where our thoughts, conditionings and comprehension are really very small. Beliefs? I suppose they have some value. But for me the heart is much more important. How can I keep my heart open? How can I tell the truth? How can I be a good daddy and a good husband? Well, Maharajji told us to sing God’s name and to feed people. Couldn’t be more simple, could it?

much love,

2009-05-15T15:14:18-07:00May 15th, 2009|