I was late to pick up Guru ji. Oddly, it was my usual. I beat to my own drum in those early teenage days. Evening program began at 7:30 pm but I was still getting things together. I looked out my window and saw Guru ji barreling across the main lawn. My pace quickened… “Yikes!”, I thought to myself. And grabbed my bag flying out the door quickly catching up to him. He was breathing heavily and despite his ill health seemed to be soaring to his destination. I grabbed at his bags to alleviate his stress and we had a small scuttle in the exchange. These are moments I recall. Somehow almost irrelevant yet personal and filled with intimacy and connection and to this day they remain meaningful to me.
Reflecting now, I recall that I felt badly… that I was late and, uh, well… it wasn’t the first time I had run late. Normally, I picked him up and brought him to evening program. That was one of my jobs. Frustrated, Guru ji had set off without me so as to be on time, but due to his ill health it hadn’t been easy for him physically and that was obvious in his wobbly walk, his breathing and in the sweat on his brow. It’s hard to describe, but when people ask me about traditional study with a guru, this story, and others like it, come to mind.
We were just people together. To me, this means that we shared authentic connection. Sometimes the link was elevated and philosophical or perhaps deeply spiritual focusing on energy and mystical teachings, and at other times, utterly human with its spectrum of life experiences ever unfolding before us.
As we continued to walk across the lawn, I started to fret a bit over Guru ji.Due to his stroke in 1983, his walking was a bit unstable. So I said, fretting in my voice, “Guru ji, watch out for that rock and don’t forget there is that deep hole by the path over there and…” Out of breath, but never one to miss a cue, he said sharply, cutting me off, “Don’t pay attention to these things. What you attend to, you make manifest. If you do not think on these things (pot holes and such), you will glide above them.” And that’s how he did it. That’s how he offered his direct students a teaching. You are walking across a lawn aiming at a destination together and you find yourself in the midst of a yogic teaching that will take you years to ponder and eventually integrate into your life. In these moments, there was never anything un-human about the moment. No denial of the form or the walking or the pressures of time and people waiting. Teaching in this manner reminded you that the experience of the divine is not in the denial of the human, but rather in this realm, teaching is best received in conjunction with the participation of our humanness.
Guru ji was not unaware of his purpose in my life or anyone’s for that matter. Not ever. I don’t think any authentic guru would lose contact with that. He knew that for teachings to land fully there would need to be a place for them to land, a place where they could be supported and take root. As the years went on, I noticed that staying connected with my humanity and not denying it supported the development of grounding. And grounding gave strength and a place where the teachings could evolve from.
Truly my love for Guru ji was a love like no other. Not better than another, just different. Guru ji was a complete person. And what I mean by that is that he looked to himself for everything. This is not to say that he didn’t ask for support in life or in simple tasks and such, but in the deepest aspects of life, I noticed he stayed close to himself. I understood this in him. The epic Sanskrit poem, the “Ramayana,” describes the greatest among men, Lord Rama, as he who sought his own counsel in the most important matters. So when I say Guru ji was a complete person I mean that he was someone who cultivated such a genuine and meaningful dialog with his inner Self that he had the capacity to guide him self. Through the link with the inner, he was able to expand and grow his capacity as a human being. He had true strength and great compassion. Being in his field was to about this kind of inner strength and compassion.
Recently, a close friend asked me if she had any character flaws. She had been suffering emotionally about questions regarding her boyfriend and wanted to see if there was something she had not looked at in herself. I was about to fly to Colorado and was seated on the plane waiting for the airline attendants to signal the shutting down of electronic devices. But I text back, “You really want my answer?” She knew me well enough to know that if asked, I would answer kindly, but truthfully. “Yes,” she said, “I want to muse with your insights over breakfast.” I paused, sat with the question and the value of an honest answer in one’s life. And wrote, “You are wildly intelligent, very funny, you love deeply and it may be useful to expand your capacity for compassion. It seems that others’ weaknesses make you feel uncomfortable. Or it could be that things that are out of their control and yours make you feel strange. I feel working on compassion could open the field up for you more.” I sent the text. She replied, “You feel this is a character flaw? Not sure how to develop compassion.” Knowing that she was struggling with some opposing thoughts that day, I replied that I felt a good place to start was with her self.
We all have areas to develop, but if you were to ask me about the guru, I would say a guru is a complete person because they have contact with their center and because they have a developed sense of compassion for themselves and others. I would say if you want to find a guru, look to the simple moments of your life, moments of great connection. They reveal love, harmony and the graceful flow of energy. Ironically, sometimes they are shared with a scuttle and sometimes a hug, but they are always exchanged in the authentically human moments of our lives and in the grounding of that humanity. When we have that true floor underneath us, we then have the capacity to leap into the divine and experience the true taste of union.
Want to study more with Manorama? Looking for a way to move more deeply into your practice?
Develop that real contact with your center through the study of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. Learn how to unlock the Secret Code hidden within the sutras in the upcoming teleclass module with Manorama starting August 4th.