Midnight at 38,000 feet – in the economy class cabin everyone is sprawled and sleeping as though suddenly anaesthetized. Far below a full moon mirrors itself and multiplies its light on the sea, a flare of phosphorescence, the Pacific shimmering in a blaze of yellow fire. August Celebrations have come and gone and on the long flight home – chasing the moon, locked in the earth's dark march of night – time to reflect on the coming Anniversary of our Guru's passing.
Almost a year has passed and we have moved from disbelief, shock, grief and tears, across the long trajectory of this first sad year to acceptance, resolve, purposefulness and at last a newly discovered strength. Knowing that we will not simply survive but flourish and prosper, that everything is at it should be. At Aspiration Ground we could ask ourselves a question that would never have occurred before – in what sense, even, is Guru no longer with us?
These past August evenings Guru's own voice has been there on Kamalakanta's faithful recordings, crystal clear and brimming with livingness, teaching us His poem-prayers again – and we would recite them back once more at His prompting. He is there in the Transcendental photographs that we pass as we approach the Temple doors, a walking meditation – my favourite one examines me deeply and I am overwhelmed at how much it embodies everything of Guru's living scrutiny and Being, the omniscience of that gaze that looks into your very depths and summons your own deepest sincerity.
In the Temple itself beneath the greenscape of sycamores and blue summer sky, Guru's cut-out photo-form rests in His chair, so startlingly lifelike that at first you look in disbelief. And Aspiration Ground itself is saturated with the great currents of spirit – piety, devotion, aspiration, the consciousness generated by a thousand seeking souls, the living Presence of the Master. All of Guru's essence is still here – only the impermanent physical aspect that brought these eternal legacies has gone.
For us the idea of Guru's 'departing' has also undergone a genuine shift in understanding, our identification shifting away from the human self we so loved, to everything it embodied and which now will eternally remain, especially our feeling of the inner link and the teachings and training He imparted. This Guru is eternal both through His undying personal connection with us and through His vast legacy of art, literature, poetry, deeds and teachings. Over the past year this understanding has become more real for each disciple – Guru is here with us, accessible and felt through meditation, through the magnetic currents of devotion and faith, through service and manifestation and the secret personal ways we each have. In the light of this understanding it seems almost foolish to say He has gone. And Guru himself writes of His disciples: "I am bound to them... wherever I go after I leave the earth plane, I shall have to be inside my disciples."
It seems extraordinary, but I believe that this is quite literally true and that Guru is now a part of us – that He has poured Himself into each one of us and we can feel this when we are at our most exemplary. Guru is our most illumined part, the highest Self within. "My light will live in and through you people: it will live in the Universal consciousness."
Since last October, there seems to have been two other strong and consecutive reactions. One is a necessity we have all felt to meditate more and to keep the inner foundations of our discipleship very strong. To hold fast to the personal disciplines that Guru taught us and that define our discipleship – prayer and meditation, physical wellbeing and fitness, our songs and our service. To seek the safe-haven of other disciples and the grace that our chosen manifestation tasks always brings. To go to as many Celebrations as we can and not allow our mind to say, "Too poor, too busy, too stressful". For these customs and practices are the individual strands which together tie us to the path, maintain the inner lines of communication between master and disciple, nourish our very souls.
Then to avoid, too, the opposites of all this – too much exposure to the world with the gravitational descent into ordinariness which this always brings, so subtle and imperceptible that we hardly notice we have fallen from aspiration and purpose.
The second has been the impulse to manifest more, to organize ourselves to spread Guru's music, literature, art, His universal teachings and the message of spiritual awakening to every part of our planet. Guru trained us both as yogis and as warriors. " The more you can create or develop inner concern for humanity and for my mission, and the sooner you have love for my realization, the quicker will be your inner progress." And here: "If the channel is perfect, then it is I who pass through that channel".
I liked Shambhu's August 27 Birthday speech to the same effect, that it is we who we are now Guru's arms and legs and voice. Are we not all feeling now what Guru so often told us, that "each individual soul has to accomplish something unique here on earth before it passes behind the curtain of Eternity. Each individual soul has a message, a special gift, to offer to Mother Earth".
A very long time ago when I was a child, in a dream one night I saw myself as a tiny figure standing in the palms of two enormous encircling hands that placed me very gently on the ground. The hands would return for me later, I was made to understand. This memory would be an enduring reminder of some other world from which we have come and to which we will some day return – and I think now of my own small part in Guru's mission as my earth task and of Guru's hands as the cause and manner of my eventual departing. Almost a year has passed since our greatly loved Teacher gave up the physical aspect of His existence, and we are each learning anew how to protect our discipleship, how to more clearly understand our role, how to navigate our way. Those hands that placed us on earth and encouraged our tasks have withdrawn for now but will one day return again.
We who knew Him and who became filled with His purpose have much to do. Sometimes in my life I can't but help marvel at everything and wonder to myself, why has this extraordinary grace come into our lives that we are disciples of this great Master, what boon was granted, what have we done in some forgotten time that earned this redeeming compassion, and how is it that we have been given this devotion, tiny though it is, and this impulse to serve when the world is so full of enchantments? I remember reading somewhere a comment by Shankaracharya that "rare indeed" is a human birth, even more so when accompanied by a longing for liberation and in the protecting care of a perfected sage.
Guru also tells us: "Those who are my direct disciples are so lucky... they will get tremendous joy because they can say, 'we danced with our Master when he was in the physical. We sang with him, we laughed and cried with him, we ran with him.' When I went to the earth-room, you were there with me; and when I go to the other room in Heaven, you will also be there with me...".