Vastrayam Samarpayami

Swami Dharmakeeti Saraswati, Bangalore

As the Master grew old and infirm, the disciples begged him not to die. Said the Master; 'If I did not go, how would you see?'
'What is it we fail to see when you are with us?' the disciples asked. But the Master would not say.
'When the moment of his death was near, they said, 'What is it that we will see when you are gone?'
With a twinkle in his eye, the Master said, 'All I did was sit on the river bank handing out river water. After I am gone, I trust you will notice the river.'

There is a beauty in the desert, in the wilderness, stark and still, a vibration of centuries of powerful silence. It is not the verdant blossoming of green, the overflowing of the palette of nature - with crimson, gold and purple flowers spilling over in their fullness, over stone and moss. It is not the spell binding brilliance of youth. It is the cool radiance of tapasya. No flowering here, no languid breeze to caress a delicate blossom seared by the heat of the relentless sun, no footstep, no whisper. All nature seems to wait with hushed breath, holding in its womb the birth of the unknown.

Here, on this dry and arid ground, called by the local Bihar is 'Smashan Bhoomi', sitting alone before a fire, was the man I had travelled for six days to be with for a few minutes. I had not planned to visit. I had not calculated the time to come to Munger. As always I had followed a deep inner urge, the pull of my inner self in this direction. I was simply obeying a call. And during my journey I had constantly thought of Him - my Guru, the Gardener, of how he had given up his personal freedom for the sake of a Mission.

For there was a mission to be accomplished, taking yoga from door to door, across oceans, into scientific laboratories, into temples of learning, places of healing and homes, the cradles of world cultures. Meticulously, the soul was planting seeds, nurturing young plants, toiling in silence until they grew into tall, sturdy trees, yielding shade and fruit to seekers of light the world over. There was a purpose to every weed he pulled out, every plant he pruned, every flower that blossomed. And yet, as he worked, it was as if he was working amidst shadows. The shrubs flowered, the grass grew, the trees were laden with fruit. But deep within him, it was not the garden that held him captive. It was the vision of the Beloved whom he was serving.

The quality of a disciple

Many years ago I had asked him, 'If a disciple had to have one quality, which should it be? And he had said. 'Obedience, It will help you to get the bhavana. 'Na Ham Karta, Gum Karta, Guru Karta Hi Kevalam.' At that time I had taken it to be an instruction to me. Today I feel that I, the questioner, was a movement in the periphery of a larger consciousness, seeking and being answered, a little pattern in the vast waters.

Have you seen a river flowing? Somewhere along the way is a stone. The flow is disturbed. The questioning waters form a ripple which is answered by another ripple, which in turn forms a wave until the stone is passed and it finds its own inner harmony and is agitated no more. It exists then, not as many ripples, but as one river.

I kept that one word 'Obedience' in the sacred recesses of my heart. It was like a Zen koan. It disturbed me in difficult moments. It turned my life upside down a few times. It played joyous tunes in my moments of clarity. But always it was present, a seed planted in a thirsty soil. It was like a constant breath my restless mind butted against as if it were a rock. 'Obedience' to Whom? What is the Guru? What is the stuff gurutwam or guru consciousness is made of? Is there someone who commands and someone who surrenders? What is this command and surrender made of?

Over the years the patterns changed and changed. They swirled and eddied around me. The splashing dissolved. Colours and lights flowed into the patterns as if that one word, 'Obedience' were a bindu around which yantras of life unfolded, making glorious music. All life now became an orchestra, all interactions seen from the centre as vibrations of a symphony, millions of musical instruments trying to tune into a harmony.

Obeying an order

As I sat before Swamiji at Deoghar, all the patterns dissolved. He was a mandala, a symbol of humanity at its peak. He was an unfolding of true manhood, all that is best and beautiful in spiritual consciousness. As I watched him, smeared with holy ash, ebony coloured by the overhead sun and the fire in front of him, the question rose in my mind, 'Why is this necessary?' As this surfaced to my mind, unvoiced because of reverence, the answer came, 'I am not doing this for name or fame, not even for spiritual benefit. I am simply obeying an order.'

As he said this, everything became still. He was not there. I was not there. There was something permeating, pervading, overwhelming and uplifting. It was a glimpse, a second perhaps of being one. In that instant I understood the meaning of 'Obedience'. The years between his utterance of the word and my understanding of it rolled into oblivion. The hair on my body stood on end as I realised how blessed I was to be in the presence of this magnificent phenomenon, to witness the flow of the divine in the empty bamboo of his physical frame. The guru was there. The shishya was there. And then both were stilled.

I renounced everything

When he said later, 'At Tryambakeshwar, I placed my clothes before the deity and with that I renounced everything, even my identity as guru, and I said, 'I have fulfilled the mission. What should I do now?' he was talking like a child. I was reminded of one of the steps in formal worship where the devotee offers apiece of cloth saying, 'Vastram Samarpayami'. This cloth is symbolic of the avarna shakti of divinity, the quality of covering its limitlessness by seeming limited - Maya, so that, in the words of Sri Aurobindo, 'God plays hide and seek with himself'. In offering the geru to the divine beloved, Swamiji had in one blow cut asunder all individual identity to merge into a vaster consciousness.

Masters always talk of the inner. Our confusions arise because we are preoccupied with the outer. When he continued, 'I will not even be able to guide you any more,' I smiled at his Grace, for he was stilling my mental needs, my search for guru and my receptivity as disciple. He was pointing to my innermost core which was neither this nor that, but which simply is - the Truth, Satyam.

As I left, I felt a tangible presence, as if I were wrapped in love. This feeling persisted. I remembered him saying years ago, 'After the first diksha, each initiation becomes subtler and subtler'.