Friday, July 15, 2011

Gurupoornima tribute - Omnipresent Teacher

Long enough have you dream’d contemptible dreams;
Now I wash the gum from your eyes;
You must habit yourself to the dazzle of the light, and of every moment of your life.

Long have you timidly waded, holding a plank by the shore;
Now I will you to be a bold swimmer,
To jump off in the midst of the sea, rise again, nod to me, shout, and laughingly dash with your hair.

- Walt Whitman


One evening in Fresno, after attending bhajans and study circle at the local Sathya Sai Baba center, I popped into Savemart to pick up some yogurt on the way home. As I walked into the store and made my way to the dairy aisle, I became aware that a couple of people I met on the way had looked at me a second longer, and one had actually done a double take. I discreetly checked my reflection in the glass doors and immediately spotted the rather big blob of vibhuthi on my forehead. Vibhuthi is customarily offered to those present after Arathi at the Sai center, and I must have got a bit more on my fingertip this time. Now I've always had a perfect horror of being conspicuous - I'm one of those who would rather fade into the woodwork than be in the limelight for any reason. I struggled for a moment to stay detached, but there was no way I was going to get stared at some more at the cashier's. So as I made my way back from the dairy aisle, I surreptitiously rubbed the vibhuthi off my forehead. I did feel a few pangs of conscience, but thought no more of it.

The next morning I opened a book of Sai discourses - my regular early morning reading. If I happened to have time I read an entire chapter, if not, just a few paragraphs. That morning I was running short on time to leave for work, so I decided to open the book at random and just read a few lines. As I opened the book, my eyes were drawn to a paragraph beginning down the page. I read unsuspectingly, gasped, and then read it again incredulously,
"We are always afraid of what the world would say and also afraid of the diversity of our own thoughts. When we do good things, there is no reason why we should be afraid of the world. Your thoughts are yours and your happiness should be yours. Many people go to a temple and put on vibhuthi, but they rub it off as soon as they come out, thinking that their friends will laugh at them. Why should they go to the temple when they have no courage to do it? Why is it that you are afraid to say that you have gone to a temple and that you have your own faith? Why can you not say that you have your faith and that you are not a slave to someone else’s ideas? There is a great deal for us to learn from the actions of the gopikas. Their courage and self-confidence are indeed exemplary. It is also necessary for us to have a certain amount of self-confidence. For sorrow or for pleasure, for defeat or for victory, we should develop the courage to meet them with equanimity."
Incredible! Baba was actually chiding me for something I thought was known only to myself, and I felt suitably chastised. But behind it all was a big smile on my face and in my heart for the rest of that day - no wordly accolade is sweeter than a Sai scolding! Each of those instances of amazing grace is a treasured jewel I can take out of my memory and marvel over endlessly.

Rest assured you won't catch me doing any vibhuthi rubbing off again, or being afraid to be in the limelight for all the right reasons!