I coaxed my mind away from its disappointment in the story of the ten dullard pilgrims, and turned it towards focusing on the point that tale was meant to illustrate:
"What do you habitually leave out of account when you take stock of your own world? Your own self, your own consciousness. That is the one that must be added to all the zeros, the one of the Self. "
In past years I would have agreed with this assessment without question. The Self? I didn't think about That nearly enough. Couldn't seem to keep That in the forefront of my waking consciousness for any extended length of time, and if I couldn't manage to maintain that practice for even a day or two, how was I ever going to become established in That State?
However, that's not what I was thinking when I heard Gurumayi say these words on New Year's Day. My immediate impression was that they weren't true for me anymore. I don't leave myself out of the consideration of my world! That world exists only in relation to my self, my consciousness, its perspectives, ideas, thoughts, judgments and beliefs.
Of course, I understand the distinction Gurumayi was trying to make between the (pure) self and the ego, I just don't believe in it anymore. When I thought there was a "capital S" self out there that I had to fight to relate to, it didn't eradicate my ego, it weakened it in ways that do not serve me as a person in the real world. It made me uncertain in my own skin. Now that I'm thinking for myself, without the mental gymnastics of having to align my everday thoughts and feelings with some unattainable ideal, I feel much more self-assured, calm and happy. In fact, in the past few months I've noticed a marked reevaluation in my assessment of myself. I feel more grounded in my beliefs, more able to articulate them and more certain of their truth, for me. If others disagree or contradict my truth, I not only don't get offended, I don't feel any need to argue the point. There is a quiet self-assurance that has grown up within me, maybe, probably, likely as a consequence of writing Rituals of Disenchantment and interacting with all those who have been moved to share their thoughts here.
In any case, there was no time to linger over the appreciation of this new estimation of my self worth. Gurumayi was again ecstatically wishing Baba a happy hundredth birthday! She exclaimed that if he were alive today ("in his physical body") Baba would announce to the whole world "I am 100 years old! I am a young man!" She shouted: "Can't you just hear him saying that?"
Now, I never met Baba. Never felt any particular connection to him, though I faithfully read all his books more than once, though I prostrated myself with abject abandon at the foot of his altar in the back of the main hall in South Fallsburg, watching mesmerized as the eyes of his picture would follow me back to my seat during each Intensive. So, when I would hear Gurumayi paint word pictures of him like this in the past I would just smile knowingly, confident that anyone who had met Baba or spent any time with him would be able to envision the scene precisely as she described it. But since that time I have read many more first-hand accounts of devotees' experience with Baba, and have had to come to terms with the well-chronicled instances of his sexual abuse of minors, and the violent tactics certain of his followers used to silence those who tried to protect the innocent. So now, this picture of a Perfected Master that I had always accepted without question was replaced in my mind's eye by one of a Perfect Bastard. Toothless, impotent, I saw Baba pushing his flaccid way into young female devotees, just girls really, as they turned their faces blankly away from the sight of his ecstasy, trying to will away the memories that are already sinking roots into their bodies like cancer.
Gurumayi continued with her fantasy of a live (in his physical body!) Baba having as much fun on his birthday as a ten year old. There would be laughter and food, singing and meditation. (I thought dryly, like there used to be in South Fallsburg when we actually gathered together as one to celebrate Siddha Yoga holy days?) Baba might even hold a year-long Shaktipat Intensive! The day would ring with Baba's characteristic phrases (Gurumayi repeats some of these in Hindi, without translation) And as Baba would always do during a satsang as part of a story, or for emphasis, or to quiet the room when loud kriyas were happening...
she taps the microphone slowly five times and repeats
shanti shanti shanti
Then Gurumayi asks: why is Baba's birthday so significant for us? It is a time to remember and reflect on what he so lovingly taught us. The Self is immortal. The Guru is immortal. The Self, God and the Guru are one. As we celebrate this anniversary of 100 years we are at the same time celebrating Baba's boundless love, Baba's all-pervading shakti, Baba's immeasurable grace and Baba's eternal teachigns.
Baba is immortal! she declares. She repeats this in Hindi. In fact, English and Hindi have alternated throughout this talk in a way I can't remember since I took an Intensive in Gurudev Siddha Peeth. And then Gurumayi begins to sing Jay Jay Muktanandaya! Muktananda Jay Jay! The musicians pick up the melody and play it for a few bars, just long enough for us to begin listlessly to follow along. And then, abruptly, the chant ends and I hear her say those three words.
Play of Consciousness.
Chit Shakti Vilas.
to be continued