OCTOBER 11, 2007, will remain with us forever as a day cloaked in awful silence, a day of piercing sadness, a day of impossible belief. Yet, within our teeming sorrows and collective pain, the seeds of prescient joy, of intense hope and of uncompromising certainty – planted there by Guru, so carefully, so lovingly, so intentionally – were already beginning to germinate.
Guru always belonged to the infinite – we knew that. But it was on this day he chose to pass behind the curtain of eternity for the last time. The temporal world, which he commanded with such divine authority, could hold him no longer. He was a son of the eternal, who, for a time, took on the veil of mortality in order to teach us how to reach for the infinite.
Our minds are layered with experiences; our memories stratified in months, years and decades. And so it is, as we reflect upon our time with Guru, we recall when we first met him; when we first felt his hands bless our head; and when he first spoke our name.
But history has a way of compressing all that has passed, into a single moment. And whether we were the first to come or the last; whether we brought the original glass of water, or took the final prasad; whether we sang the opening song, or blew the closing conch, we were all part of the transcendent beauty of that unique instant.
Eventually, our lives will be seen in the light of this singular portion of eternity: the moment that we were on earth with our Guru; the moment we touched his heart and he lifted our souls; the moment we were given, by the grace of God, to be of some small service to his grand mission. All this, he gave – and he gave it to us.
Yet by far the greatest gift Guru left, is the gift of oneness. In each of us, Guru’s heart abides. And so, when I remember him, I cannot think of myself in isolation because: that is me passing Guru his esraj; and that is me driving him to his hotel; that is me carrying his bag; and that is me handing him weights; that is me massaging his feet; and that is me offering him my heart’s gratitude and praying he would never leave us ... and that is me ... offering him one last bow.
Whether we were lucky enough to be with Guru every day, or whether we never had the chance to see him outwardly, we have all been united in his heart – and that is at once the revelation and the mystery of his life. He is not, and never has been, shackled by the incapacities or the capacities of the body, nor fettered by the ignorance or the brilliance of the mind. And, ultimately, he has shown us that the parlous nature of life and the so-called finality of death too, could not limit his infinite spirit.
In life, Guru gathered such a small group of souls unto himself – so very few when you consider the vast multitudes – though we may never know how many people Guru nurtured in other ways. But for those of us who came to know him personally, it was as if some divine thread had drawn us together from the four corners of the earth to play a role in an epic drama for which we had no training. Though however ill-prepared we thought we were, or however inadequate we still may feel – no matter – Guru accepted us, wholeheartedly and unconditionally. He was the preceptor – it was his vision, his reality and his victory that we have been privileged to share.
In death too, Guru brought us together again. For one week, disciples from all over the world gathered in New York to pay their last respects. On October 18, Guru was laid to rest at Aspiration-Ground, in the place he loved so much. In the silence, you can still hear Guru’s squeals of delight as he perfectly strikes the tennis ball deep into the court. In the soft rustle of the overhanging trees and in the sweet ripples of air and incense, you can feel the delicate touch of Guru’s sublime meditation. This is holy ground. This is where our Guru wanted to be. And it will be a place of pilgrimage forever.
We can only wonder how much more Guru would have achieved if he had remained on earth? But as usual, Guru had the answer long before we ever had the question. Guru’s poem ‘My Father-Son’ from My Flute, first published in 1972, says it so well:
Guru carried the poetry of heaven with him wherever he went and he dropped a tiny portion into each and every heart as he passed by. His gentle footfalls may never brush this earth again, but the ground upon which he once trod will always remain a silent witness to his grace. And we, who were blessed to have walked with him for a time, to have talked with him, and to have laughed and smiled with him, what can we say that Guru himself has not already said? Perhaps only ... thank you, Guru ... thank you ... thank you.
Guru lit the sacred flame, he held the torch aloft and he carried it tirelessly throughout the length and breadth of the world for 76 years. The path he illumined, so precisely, so assuredly, so completely, he laid out before us. Now, the divine torchbearer has passed on his dream. And whether we travel to the North or to the South, to the East or to the West, we will always carry the inspiration of his magnificent life with us.
Let the stories of these glorious days be told forever. And from the innermost depths of our hearts to the far reaches of the universe and beyond; in silence and in sound; in every language known and in each sweet hope and dream as yet unfulfilled, may His Victory be proclaimed – our Beloved Guru, our Master Supreme.
Photo by Kedar Misani