A chat with swamiji

This was written on April 8, 2011-

This morning I was in my little bubble, listening to my ipod and raking leaves in the garden.  Raking leaves is my karma yoga here at the ashram; doing work is not required but I asked about what I could do and I’m happy to have this task.  I’ve been at it every morning for a week but nature provides more than enough leaves for me everyday.  As I was scraping the ground and getting covered with a fine coat of dust all over, I saw from the corner of my eye that the swamiji was walking by.  Then I noticed that he was no longer on the stone path and was heading straight towards me.  He told me to leave my rake there and to come with him.  So I followed.

He seemed to be making his morning rounds.  He and I stopped at a construction site where the swamiji explained that they were building a new library.  There he asked me to sing a song in my language.  I drew a blank.  I had been listening to the Gayatri mantra and had nothing else on my mind.  He said any song would do.  Happy Birthday popped into my head.  No, not that.  He then looked at me and said, “You can’t think of a song?  You always have to be ready, ready to receive the Divine.”  I told him that I had been listening to the Gayatri mantra and that’s all I had in my head.  He asked me to chant it so I did.  The construction workers looked puzzled.

Swamiji at satsang

The swamiji then asked me what I was searching for.  I told him that I wasn’t searching for anything.  I didn’t understand why I had to wait for the Divine.  I know that “It” is already in my heart and has been with me always.  He said, “That’s good.  Because most people come here searching.”  And then he said, “come” so I followed some more.

We went to the back of the ashram where they keep some cattle.  There was a playground with some swings and a small school for the neighborhood children.  The kids in the playground all hollered, “namaste, swamiji!”  When we were leaving the playground he stopped and asked me if I remember what my parents gave me for my 16th birthday.  He asked whether I remembered all the presents I’ve been given.  Why do we not remember all the gifts?  He then called me by my name and said, “Use that same power to forget.  Can you forget you exist?”  The swamiji eventually led us to the dining hall and the kitchen where he made some tea for us.  We sat for a while and chatted.

I asked him some of the questions I had been thinking about since I arrived here.  How does yoga fit into the Divine Life (Sri Aurobindo’s philosophy)?  I am trying to live a yogic life (the eight limbs of yoga- yamas, niyamas, asana, pranayama, etc), with focus and mindfulness.  I understand that there is no “I,” this self, atma, or ego that identifies itself as “I.”  There is the supreme Self, Purusha, Consciousness, the Absolute, or the Divine (as Sri Aurobindo called it).  Yoga, the Divine Life; am I missing something?  He said these are just words.  All life is yoga.

This swamiji, in line with the teachings of Sri Aurobindo, believes that only the Divine exists.  He told me that if I wanted to confuse myself I can call things differently, prakriti, purusha, whatever.  I asked him about God and religion.  The Yoga Sutras talk about Isvara, the Mother refers to the Lord, and the Hindus believe in thousands of Gods.  He said they are just beliefs.  He asked me whether food was to be just looked at or to be eaten.  If you believe then you should live it.  What is important is to live with our senses in control.  Don’t be fooled or guided by what my senses tell me, he said.  It’s the same lesson and message I learned from KYM: incorrect perception leads to suffering.  If believing in God helps you in your journey, then believe.  Yoga is a philosophy, not a religion.  The swamiji emphasized that this path of self-realization is not an easy one.  Controlling your senses and your mind is not a quick and easy exercise; it is a lifelong practice.  He said to be vigilant.

He then told me rather than listening to the Gayatri mantra, chant it all day and see what my senses tell me.  Be in control of my senses.  Then he left.  I went back to raking leaves, humming the Gayatri mantra.

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