The other day I was entering the lobby of my building at work when I was stopped short by a tall, elegant woman staring at me with a puzzled expression. All at once her face brightened in recognition, like one candle being lit from another. She rushed forward, graciously offering both her hand and her name, and in that instant I recognized her. "C" was a familiar face I'd encountered at the ashram for many years. I embraced her spontaneously; my body reacting to the joy of unexpectedly meeting another devotee out in the world a moment before my mind registered it. As we looked at one another our eyes radiated warmth, kindled by the flame of remembered fellowship. We made the usual inquiries after each other's welfare, and then she answered the question hanging over us both. "I'm still practicing; I just took the recent Intensive." "The one for Baba's mahasamadhi?" I asked, happy to know that little bit of what is still going on. She nodded and asked if I still practiced. I replied that I did in my own way; mentioning that I was blogging about my experiences. Her face flickered for an instant. I then tried on a role that an early commenter to "Rituals" bestowed on me and told her I was a jnani yogi now, practicing self-inquiry through writing—an answer that didn't really convince either of us.
And then, like every conversation with every devotee I've had in twenty years, the topic turned to Gurumayi. With a few words and gestures of resignation we shared our belief that she is not coming back. Or at least, the yoga that we had practiced so lovingly for so long would not return in its old form. Then "C" said something that astounded me; she confessed that this was not a surprise to her because of a letter she received from Gurumayi years ago. What could Gurumayi have communicated to a devotee in writing that would presage her own disappearance? She explained; it was a letter in which Gurumayi declined her request for an extended stay at the ashram, saying that "C's" light was needed out in the world. Suddenly, the bridge to the past we were standing on crumbled down the middle and an abyss opened up between us. Or, so I felt.
Undoubtedly I was projecting, but it seemed to me that "C" had accomplished a set of mental gymnastics that used to be as natural to me as yogic breathing, but that I no longer knew how to perform. She had taken a glaringly inconvenient fact about SY (the Guru had disappeared) and reconciled it in her mind by appending it to another experience that confirmed, explained or even mystically predicted it (Gurumayi told her that our light is needed not at the ashram, but out in the world.)
I didn't judge my friend: I envied her. Once I asked someone who has left SY what she misses most about the path. Her answer was devastating in its simplicity. "The certainty," she replied "I miss the certainty." Precisely. Siddha Yoga is a system of thought that, by brightly coloring every aspect of a devotee's life, eventually subsumes all others. Everything that happens can be explained through sustained contemplation of the teachings. Explained, not rationalized. Because much of what we came to understand and accept is anything but rational. I knew this even as I practiced contemplation to explain away contradictions between the teachings and their actual practice in SY. I practiced this "Self" mind control willingly and gladly—because I relished the feeling of certainty it bestowed, the freedom from questions that had no answer, the numinous aura of belief that lit up everyday reality in the physcial world, magically turning it from a bleak material plane of cause and effect into a playground of the Shakti.
The talks, the chanting and meditation, the ritual, the hypnotic repetition of the mantra in place of thought; all these built up, stone by stone by stone, a temple in our minds that was really a palace of mirrors. Every reflection corresponded to and explained another, even if it was warped by distortion. Gurumayi sat on her chair in the center of the palace, her image reproduced and reflected back a thousand times over. Because she held a candle, we believed that the hundreds of thousands of reflected flames we saw were ones she had lit in our hearts.
Maybe that's exactly what she wanted. I seem to remember a poem from her slim volume "Ashes at my Guru's Feet" in which Gurumayi used the metaphor of a shattered mirror to stand for the dissolution of her ego at the moment of enlightenment. Perhaps she wants us all to smash our mirrors. Or maybe, just maybe, finding herself once again in a hall of mirrors, she shattered them all herself. I hope so. I really do.
Nevertheless, it is left to each of us to pick up the pieces. "C" seems to have collected the shards of her experience and re-assembled them into a mosaic that paves a path she still faithfully walks. Every one of my Siddha Yoga brothers and sisters who have successfuly accomplished this, know that I hope to walk alongside you one day. Others, the ones who relished all those dancing saptahs, may have gathered their pieces of mirror and used them to create a disco ball. Excellent choice! Finding the unfettered joy and lighthearted laughter we shared together at the ashram in our mundane lives is miracle enough. Still others have swept theirs into a dustbin and walked out of the palace, never looking back. As for me, the pieces of my experience still litter the floor at my feet. For now, I like looking at them from the vantage point of my normal human height. I try to puzzle out how they could ever fit back together again, these shards of mirror that each reflect one fractured aspect of my features, like a Cubist collage.