Maharajji’s Mahasamadhi

Less than a few weeks away is Maharajji’s 40th anniversary celebration for his Mahasamadhi.

Mahasamadhi is a saint’s final samadhi (higher state of meditation, a non-dualistic state of consciousness) of enlightenment. It is the complete absorption of consciousness in the self at the time of death.  An established yogi or yogini who has attained enlightenment will pick the appropriate day and time to consciously leave their mortal body. (wikipedia)  Even though the saint is in fact leaving the physical body it shouldn’t be a sad time for their devotees.  Many great saints, or accomplished yogis, have said that when they leave their body they will be even more accessible to everyone.  Other saints have said that after death they will be more powerful because there won’t be the restrictions of the physical body.

 “One cannot understand what he is. Physically he is not here, but he is listening to everything.”
(p. 401, Miracle of Love, Ram Dass)

We can see the truth of these words by the stories we hear from people who have been touched by Maharajji even after his death and whom have never met him in the physical form.

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Our beloved Neem Karoli Baba decided to leave his physical body on September 11th, 1973 in the Ramakrishna Mission hospital in Vrindavan. Baba’s ashes are kept in a mahasamadhi room at his ashram in Vrindavan.  Some devotees find that sitting in this room fills them with love and takes them deeper into meditation.

“……… the Mothers at the ashram told me that Maharajji had said, “When a saint leaves his body, the temple becomes his body.”  This year when I walked back into his room in Vrindavan, just as I crossed over the threshold, I felt as though everything I’d done in the last four years was irrelevant and meaningless.  It was the same experience as having one of Maharajji’s glances- it would bring you to right here, right now.” (p.401, Miracle of Love, Ram Dass)

Here is a short story of one thing Maharajji said about Mahasamadhi:

“Maharajji went to Shirdi Sai Baba  temple in Madras. He sat there quietly. A woman with a baby sat crying before a picture of Shirdi Sai Baba, who had left his body many years before. Maharajji said, “You know what she is doing?” She is asking him to cure her child, and he will do it because a guru never leaves his devotees. A guru is indestructible, immortal, and immune to old age and death.”   (p. 391, Miracle of Love, Ram Dass)

Did Maharajji really leave his body in 1973 or was it an escape? Stay tuned for the story from “Miracle of Love”  by Ram Dass.

The Journey to Maharajji continues- “Nothing to Achieve” Part 2

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Supriya had a funny little story about her first morning at the ashram. She met one of the caretakers who called himself Jacko. She asked him what does ‘jacko’ mean, to that he told her “Jacko rakein saiya, maar sakey nahin koi.” His translation of this was ‘Jacko’ is a person who was saved by god so nobody could kill him.  She laughed, as do I, because the actual translation is “Whomsoever (key word) is saved by God, none can ever kill him.” So it is not “Jacko” that is saved by god but “whomsoever” is saved by god.

That morning Jacko asked her to make puris. I have to say in my personal experience something interesting always tends to happen with puris at the ashram. I won’t talk about it now, but that morning she only had a little bit dough to make enough puris for the people in the temple and the anticipated guests. However, Jacko told Supriya to make three times that amount even though there were only 10 people around. As it turned out two busses full of people showed up that afternoon unexpectedly and they had just enough puris to serve all the visitors. Supriya thought, “something peculiar always happens around here, it’s out of my control. Maybe just like my life…”

The next day was Supriya’s birthday and to her surprise when she woke up she found a crystal on her pillow gifted to her from another girl staying at the Dharamshala. Attached was a note, “Happy birthday, this crystal is for good luck. I found it in the river while diving. There are three cartons of yogurt in the fridge so you can make your favorite dish- Punjabi Karhi.”

That day devotees were chanting the Hanuman Chalisa 108 times.  When they finished someone asked Supriya to come into the kitchen. She took her time; then finally when she entered the kitchen, she saw a big chocolate cake waiting for her on the big wooden table, surrounded by people who were also waiting for her. She went hysterical and started crying because at this time in her life she was feeling so lonely and empty. She said from that moment on it changed her life. She felt that if God can look after such a simple thing, like a birthday cake, then what does she have to worry about in her life. After enjoying the little party she gave the Italian woman a hug and said thank you. They happened to be standing under Maharaji’s photo and the Italian woman said, “don’t thank me, thank him,” pointing to Maharaji’s photo.  Supriya looked at Baba’s photo and was overwhelmed with it all. She still found him to be funny. But it was at that moment she felt something with Maharaji, even if not completely connected. When we were talking she reflected on why she didn’t feel a deep sense of connection to Maharaji. She figures it is because he doesn’t give any set of guidelines or practices to arrive to God- how could it be so simple? A strong part of her is a go-getter and with him there is nothing to achieve, or to work for, but just ‘Be’.

(to be continued- Supriya meets what she considers her first teacher in physical form at Baba’s Mahasamadhi Ashram)…….

Journey to Maharajji-Part 1 Meeting Maharajji

 

I would like to share a story with you of a nice young woman I met a few days before Guru Purnima last month. She flew all the way from Australia to be at the ashram on Guru Purnima and considers Maharaji one of her Gurus. But this devotion that developed over many years came with its fair share of struggles. Let me share with you her journey to Maharaji.

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It all started in 2000 when Supriya came to America from India to complete her internship in architecture. She visited her uncle at that time who happened to live in Dallas, Texas. Her uncle was a very big devotee of Maharaji and had a framed photo of him hanging on the wall in his puja room. Like any good Indian girl Supriya would visit his puja room to give Maharaji’s photo her pranams (bowing as a sign of respect and receiving blessings) out of habit and respect, but she honestly didn’t feel any connection to him. She tells me that she thought Maharaji was very funny. Hanuman on the other hand was always a source of admiration for her. She adored Hanuman as a child and felt like he was her little brother. As a child when the family would visit the Hanuman temple in India she would put a rakhi (sacred thread of love placed on your brother) on the Hanuman murti. She was lucky because on this trip to the US her and her uncle would make a visit to the Taos ashram for a bhandara (large feast for a holy festival) where she met both Hanuman and Maharaji. But even in the Taos ashram she didn’t feel a connection to Maharaji. She didn’t think much of it and went home back to India.

Three years later, in 2003, she came back to Texas to help her sister with a family problem. However, the situation was complicated and she was finding it difficult to stay in the US. She decided to return to India. Supriya’s birthday was coming up and she wanted to spend it at an auspicious temple. Remembering the Taos temple, she booked a bus ticket there.  It was a long  ride from Austin to Albuquerque and a frustrating shuttle ride from Albuquerque to Taos. She got into Albuquerque at 6am and caught her shuttle. But on the way to Taos the road was blocked due to a landslide. Her and the other passengers were stuck waiting the whole day for the landslide to be cleared. As it turned out the other passengers were actually some lovely women who happened to be shamans. She enjoyed talking with them and they told her many things about herself. But it was still a long wait without food or water.  Finally, as evening started to fall the roads were cleared and they continued their ride in the shuttle. The driver told Supriya he would have to drop off some passengers in another town and then come back to Taos, so she would be the last one dropped off. By this time she was exhausted and not in high spirits. Finally, it was Supriya’s turn to be dropped off but the shuttle driver got lost and he couldn’t find the temple. She said it was very stressful and the fact that is was already 9pm, the time that the gate at the temple gets closed and locked didn’t make things any better.  Supriya got nervous that she wouldn’t be able to sleep at the ashram, but they finally made it and fortunately nobody had closed the gate yet.

She gathered her luggage, walked down the unlit path to the ashram kitchen and stood in the doorway feeling just about ready to cry. Standing there a little dumbfounded the cook, an Italian women, said “Go and see him he’s waiting for you.”  Supriya instantly thought oh no I haven’t taken a bath- in Vedic culture you never enter a temple without taking a bath and rinsing your mouth. But the cook looked back at her and said, “don’t worry he’s waiting for you,” as if she had heard Supriya’s worries, “go quickly they are almost closing the temple doors.”

Supriya didn’t think twice and went to the temple room, bowed in front of Hanuman and started crying because of the days journey, her dear sister’s problem and some difficult situation not letting her stay in the US for a longer visit. She did her pranams to Maharaji’s photo, but still no connection. With the day’s journey finished she took rest.

(to be continued………)

 

Guru Purnima in Bhav

This year’s Guru Purnima was one of the best I have ever attended.

The air was filled with bhav (devotional state of mind) Saturday evening as preparations for the temple took place. One devotee, Radhika, brought fresh marigolds from gardens in Taos, including her own. She and some other devotees strung colorful garlands made of those marigolds, orchids and fragrant roses for both Maharaji and Hanuman. Some devotees chatted in the sunroom and shared stories of Maharaji while sipping on the traditional temple chai, while others bustled around to get last minute preparations completed. The almost full moon (purnima) lit up the cool crisp air as everyone waited for the Sunday festivities to arrive.

GP_tentSunday morning people got ready for the 24 hour chanting of the maha mantra, which took place under a large tent adorned with a wall-sized portrait of Maharaji. Some devotees were locals while others were visiting for the first time. We sat on the grass under the tent chanting various mantras as the sun slowly filled the sky with light and air with warmth. Devotees shared smiles with each other.

The chanting of the Maha Mantra began at 1:08 pm. You could walk around the ashram and hear the chanting from afar as if you were moving with the sound of devotion. Devotees signed up to lead the chanting in half hour time slots, and as they led you could feel their heartfelt devotion to Maharaji.

704103_549013941825541_343115916_oThroughout the day Baba’s kitchen served prasad to devotees who enjoyed the various delights and passed time with each other in the state of bhav. It was very inspiring as we shared our glimpses of truth and selfless service. Many devotees were conscious of spreading joy and lending a helping hand. In the evening, I and some friends helped prepare ladoos, an Indian sweet that is a bit of a challenge to make. At first we were chatting and making funny little jokes. Then, one of our friends who travels around the world from ashram to ashram started quietly chanting the maha mantra. His chanting was the matchstick that lit us up to join in. As a few minutes passed we became more enthusiastic and made this offering to Maharaji’s photo hanging on the wall behind us.

Hanuman_Temple_IMG_0883_500Soon our chanting attracted other devotees who came to chant around us. We made ladoos for another 45 minutes, chanting hare krishna hare krishna, krishna krishna hare hare, hare rama hare rama rama rama hare hare. Those not making the ladoos were jumping up and down and waving or clapping their hands as they chanted the maha mantra.

Early the next morning local neighbors said they could hear us chanting and how beautiful it was to hear while they were in bed. One devotee even said she was tempted to get out of bed and walk down the road to join us!

Around 11pm that evening, after a long day of joyful time spent with other devotees, I started to get a little tired. I didn’t go home , though, because I had signed up to lead the chanting at 12:30 am. Never having played a harmonium in public before, I was a little nervous. But my new friends joined me to lead the chanting. It was the most beautiful experience to offer the maha mantra to Maharaji and Hanuman in the temple room.

Devotees smiled while chanting, and one woman who looked very serious and intent on something began to lighten up. She looked over at me. I had a second thought that maybe she wasn’t happy with the chanting but I couldn’t stop and devotion just poured out of the group as we became louder. Suddenly, she smiled! We had so much energy and I couldn’t imagine going home. The chanting continued all through the early morning and a hot pot of chai kept all of our cups filled.

Monday morning came and you could still feel the chanting throughout the ashram grounds. One visitor from India commented on how wonderful it is what we’re doing here and how after time it will purify all of Taos.

As 1:08pm approached on Monday, the temple room and sunroom became packed. You could feel the elation of the sangha (group of devotees) and anticipation of not wanting this moment to end. We finished with a prayer to Maharaji and the ghee lamps were taken around the temple to give darshan to the devotees. Some families stayed in the temple room after we finished to keep chanting and give personal offerings to Maharaji and Hanuman. While others moved outside to partake in the delicious varieties of subji prasad and the ladoos!

Even now, after a week has passed since Guru Purnima, you can feel the blessings of Maharaji everywhere at the temple and the spirit of devotion is more vibrant than ever. I, as well as many others, feel so grateful to have had such a blessed Guru Purnima experience. We all look forward to the next festival, Maharaji’s Maha Samadhi, in September.

Jai Jai Sita Ram Jai!

-Shama

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