The theme of day three, the last day of the intensive, was ” Faith, Devotion and Grace”. We covered the last 6 chapters of the Gita- except for chapter 15. (Don’t ask) It was really the emphasis of the Bhakti path or devotional path of yoga which was contained in the last chapters of the Gita.
The Bhakti path is not really unfamiliar to us in the West as the worship of Christ is a bhakti path. Many people worship God but the figure of Christ as the embodiment of God and his attributes makes it easier for us to understand than the disembodied divine spirit. As we are manifested in physical form it is hard for us to understand and conceive that which is beyond form and so we take manifested objects and our love for them is what triggers our love and understanding of the universal. We need form or a name in order to have that opening.
I often think of my Dad that is no longer alive and my love for him takes me straight into that place where abstract thought cannot take me. My love for him teaches me about devotion. It takes the absolute realm of the universal and manifests it into something that I can understand. Love is in relationship. You need to love something to understand love- you can’t understand love from a book or from a lecture- it is experienced in relationship.
John asked us all to write down what was the secret of the Gita that Krishna gave to Arjuna- the highest teaching. This is what I wrote, ” That God is in everything and everything is in us. Knowing this, live skillfully with love in your heart”. It is amazing that it takes 18 chapters to get that but you know how we are…..Arjuna keeps asking and doubting and Krishna has to keep explaining and going into more detail….I am wondering if Krishna was a wife….hmm.
We had a rockin’ practice of love in the morning which culminated in hand stand drop over to urdva dhanurasana. I know we did some other cool stuff like a dwi pada with an assist that had our foot in our partner’s back-( I actually adjusted Sjanie’s spine….*pop* ) but we were so blissed out that I forgot. I practiced right beside the Hanuman banner and Maharaji’s picture and it was like Maharaji and the monkey were really digging our practice.
Ram Dass came back for the afternoon and I got brazen enough to ask him to sign my book. As I walked into the room he was in I signaled a bewildered Sjanie and had her grab her book. This is not something Sjanie would normally do, so I kind of cajoled her into it, but I don’t hesitate to say she has no regrets. Ram Dass was very sweet to us and I told him how my daughter loves the monkey ever since we had Satsang with him. He was very pleased about that. Sjanie and I returned to the yoga room with our books clutched to our chests and a little misty trying to soak up Maharaji’s shakti and lookin’ like we just had our favorite movie star autograph our book. Yup- yoga geeks…..
Ram Dass gave the most uplifting and warm talk and he spoke for two hours. He talked about his stroke which was very moving. He said it was like his chapter 11 in the Gita when Krishna reveals himself in the universal form. Before that Arjuna didn’t have faith- he had belief ( which comes from the mind) but he didn’t have faith ( which comes from the heart. When he has his stroke he said he lost faith- he said to Maharaji, ” Hey- did you go out for lunch??? What is THIS?” He was completely depressed in the hospital and he stared at the picture of Maharaji on the wall. People would come in and say ” How could Maharaji let this happen to you”. It was ” all very sad” he said.
Over time though he started to realize that the stroke wasn’t from Maharaji- it was from nature. It was his karma. His abilities that he was left with were Maharaji’s Grace. It was fierce Grace, but still Grace. Because Ram Dass had slowed down his audience had to slow down too. His wheel chair and paralysis softened people to him and he was better able to open their hearts. These positive things Maharaji supplied. Maharaji used to say to him, ” I love suffering- it brings me so close to God”. That’s not saying that suffering is optimal, but isn’t it usually in our darkest times we seek out answers?
Ram Dass explained that devotion cannot be done by intellect. It is done by the heart. A devotee is one whose heart has been opened. He explained that he loved Maharaji and was his devotee but what he really loved was the God within Maharaji. You cannot fall in love with the God in you, your atman, but you can fall in love with the God in someone else.
John had a great quote that went, “ When I don’t know who I am I serve you- when I know who I am I am you.” It really summerizes the path of the bhakti yogi.
Maharaji used to tell Ram Dass to meditate like Christ. ” Lose yourself in love” he would say. This puzzled Ram Dass so Maharaji showed him and, as Maharaji meditated, tears rolled down his face. Meditation can become like a ritual that is empty of love- this is what Maharaji was trying to explain. Ram Dass said, “You can sing hymns like you are reading the shopping list- but these are the beautiful words of Christ- you need to sing with love”. Ram Dass’ name means servant of God. It also is another name for Hanuman.
This segued into Ram Dass giving us a mini synopsis of the Ramayana. He kept saying he was talking too much and apologizing and we were all ” NO- please, please continue.” His assistant said he hasn’t talked that long to a group since his stroke. His assistant figured our attentiveness was feeding his desire to share. It was so very special.
Ram Dass finished his time with us by telling us his mantra- “ I am loving awareness“. John sweetly gifted a shawl made from cashmere to Ram Dass and wrapped it around his shoulders. It was so obvious to us that it was like Maharaji’s famous blankets. It all just seemed so right. The perfect way to thank him and honour our time together.
After Ram Dass left, John took the mantra Ram Dass told us and we used that as our japamala mantra for the afternoon. We also turned our mats and faced one person who we did a meditation and a partner exercise with. We had to look at them and tell them what we liked about them~ what we saw. It was fun and brought back memories of doing that with Christina Sell many years ago.
We ended the whole day by making a huge circle and taking the whole three days and summarizing it into a few words or a phrase. We went around the circle saying our personal summary. There were some classics. Some of my favorites were, ” Be the loving dude I actually am” ” Love everybody” ” love makes us one” ” Hare Krishna” “Hare Ram” ( back to back no less… ) and “Yum, yum, yum” which is what Ram Dass would say every time he talked about getting to that deepest part of your soul.
I asked Ram Dass only one question during the intensive. I said, “Ram Dass, can faith and love in us awaken it in others?” He emphatically hit his good hand on the arm rest of his wheel chair and said, “YES! Absolutely!”
My dharma thickens…….