"Diodorus Siculus tells the story of a god who had been cut into pieces and scattered; which of us, strolling at dusk or recollecting a day from the past, has never felt that something of infinite importance has been lost?"
Jorge Luis Borges, Paradiso XXXI, 108
Maybe because my last post left me at the mouth of a labyrinth, I've been thinking about Borges, famous lover of labyrinths who used them as a central symbol in much of his writing. So, I picked up a volume of his work and turned to the above verse, the opening lines of a poem about the search for a lost god whose presence is felt by his worshippers only as an absence.
I can't read Borges without thinking it would have been easy to love him, to fall in love with the man whose extraordinary imagination could gestate entire worlds, or summon up a single, ancient evening in just a few lines. But a man is not synonymous with his art. Maybe Jorge Luis was surly in the morning if his eggs were runny, or maybe his underarms smelled like onions, or he scattered his clothes on the floor while making his drunken way to bed, expecting that his wife would dutifully pick them up before joining him for some hot monkey-love. Borges was doubtless guilty of a thousand and one faults which, over time, could turn love cold. Which is to say, he was merely human—even if he could write like a god.
But is this the way true love works? Don't lovers tolerate and even come to embrace each other's imperfections? That's been my experience. I've learned to face, and found the courage to change, some of my more egregious character flaws only after watching a boyfriend lovingly accept them, time and again. And I've performed the same healing function for him. In fact, wouldn't it seem inhuman, even monstrous, to insist that someone be perfect before you loved and accepted them?
If so, how did we all come to fall in love with the idea of a perfected master?
What did it mean when we said that the Guru was perfect? That she always acted in unity with the Shakti? That she saw perfection in everything, even us imperfect humans? Or, did it mean that she never made a mistake?
For many of us who only saw Gurumayi in public, always immaculately dressed, exquisitely poised, reading talks that were painstakingly scripted and polished with practiced spontaneity, it was easy to develop strange notions about what the Guru's perfection meant. I remember a day in the early 90's, at the apex of the Guru-as-Goddess stage in Siddha Yoga, sitting in Amrit with otherwise intelligent people debating whether or not Gurumayi actually menstruated (the thinking being she was a lifelong celibate by definition, so why would she need to?) How many of us true believers were all too eager to ascribe to her magical powers—if someone got up and shared in an Intensive that Gurumayi had appeared in their room and talked them through some difficulty, even though she was physically thousands of miles away at the time, well, the Guru could bilocate! And who among us hasn't sat in a chant, nursing some private sorrow, and believed that Gurumayi picked our face out of the thousands sitting before her in the mandap to deliver a penetrating gaze, or a momentary comforting smile, as a sign that she had read our thoughts and was answering our silent prayer?
Of course, the culture and practices of Siddha Yoga fed the flames of this sort of fevered apotheosis.The thousands of pictures of the Guru that papered the walls of the ashram, the steady stream of experience shares (themselves carefully crafted and "coached") that related miracles due to Gurumayi's or Baba's grace, the daily worship of Bade Baba's murti and the attendant hush of sacred stillness that permeated the atmosphere of the temple. If the teachings of Siddha Yoga were careful to make a distinction between the inner and outer Guru, placing the former above the latter in importance to the individual seeker, what was this orgy of outer worship about? Why did we need it?
I can imagine a Siddha Yoga grounded in the same Kashmir Shaivite teachings, with precisely the same list of spiritual practices, in which the physical Guru is merely "first among many" as a fellow practitioner. Revered as a teacher, but not worshipped. Not infallible, equally capable of making errors and learning from them. But would we want this?
Hypothetically, what if Gurumayi were to return to us chastened, admit to her wrongs and the wrongs of others committed under her watch, make restitution to individuals she has hurt, ask forgiveness from them privately and the sangham publically. What if she also asked to be seen as nothing more mysterious or holy than a teacher—would we take her back? Or are we willing to accept nothing less than perfection in our Guru?