I met my first Guru this week.
He was everything I expected of a Guru on first-meeting: He had long-gray, untamed hair; He wore swaths of fabric wrapped around his body; He was charming, perhaps even beguiling; and notably articulate.
Jim and I met Sadhguru at the home of a neighbor. The neighbor is a friend and new disciple of Sadhguru, a “yogi and profound mystic” as he is described in his own literature.
We sat in the living room with about 15 other guests and family members. There was a powerful corporate lawyer, a television executive and high court judge present. Sadhguru held salon, of sorts, sitting in a chair at the top of the room, the rest of us fanned out from him. It was interesting to watch how some people clearly revered Sadhguru, bowing and reaching for the ground near his feet when he entered the room. One woman was tearing. We sat with him for 90 minutes, chatting about everything from the state of the mind, desire, the need to believe in God, the search, the search, search.
What is a Guru? A guru, or god-man, is a spiritual teacher. Gurus tackle matters of the earthly mind with the goal of helping their disciples reach some level of enlightenment. Followers are devoted to the divine nature of the guru who leads them through this process.
Some gurus are spiritual snake-oil salesmen; Some are genuine sages.
Gurus might have a religious retreat or “ashram” where their followers go for short or extended stays. I have a friend who grew up on an ashram in south India.
I have another friend who takes her two elementary-age sons to an ashram twice a year. For two days they sit in a large open space with hundreds of other people and pray or meditate for eight hours. The boys may not be focused on prayer but they have learned to sit and stay quiet and focus on something – a shoelace, a penny, or patterns of dust on the floor.
India has more Gurus than there are breakfasts in a year. I wonder whether gurus are a natural off-spring of Hinduism, which has hundreds, maybe thousands of Gods and a less collective nature of worship. Unlike Christianity, or Judaism or Islam, Hindus don’t meet regularly in a congregation for communal prayer and reflection with a leader who facilitates a greater understanding of faith and God. Instead, Hindus worship privately to Hindu Gods of their choice. They may have shrines in their home where they pray and make offerings, or they may go to a temple. Hindu priests are on hand at the temple to assist prayer. Temples celebrate specific gods, such as Delhi’s Hanuman Mandir (monkey temple) , or Birla Temple (Lord Vishnu) or Chattapur Temple ( the Goddess Durga). Large prayer-offerings, or pujas, are held at temples on special occasions.
So why the Guru? My theory: Hindu priests speak to the Gods. Gurus speak to people.
I have a mild understanding of Sadhguru’s message after our meeting: one needs to understand the self to be truly happy and to fully experience all dimensions of life.
And apparently, you need a Guru to lead the way.
Me? I follow my own path – and I run on it.
It’s monsoon season… cooler, stickier, and greener:
With the monsoon comes the heavenly smell of jasmine and frangipani. There’s a path in Nehru park that winds through a field of frangipanis. The rain knocks the flowers to the ground and scatters them everywhere. When I run through it the floral bouquet sends me swooning:
Frangipani shading Nek Chand statues at school:
We’re moving to a new house at the end of the month. This is our tinky-winky colored dining room:
Our new garden. Can you spot Aslan?
And the other side of housing: The white building under construction is new central government housing for federal employees. The construction workers and their families, employed by a contractor for the government, live in the metal shacks.
Me and the Mystic: