As I open “From Bindu to Ojas,” I am arrested by the picture opposite the dedication to Maharaj-ji—Hanuman tearing open his heart. The juxtaposition says to me that even the necessity of painfully ripping open our hearts is a blessing from the guru.
There was a time in my life when this picture of Hanuman was my sole/soul guiding force. I had run into a major stumbling block on the evolutionary road to higher consciousness: I believed, like a good little yogini, that I shouldn’t harbor (or even acknowledge) any of the emotional hell realms such as jealousy or anger. It took six months of sitting in my meditation “cave” (then located in a closet) and communing with this picture before I could come to grips with a completely human reaction to very discomfiting circumstances. I was, in a sense, learning how to live in the cave of my heart.
Hanuman tore open his heart because someone had questioned his devotion; now Rama, Sita, and Lakshman clearly could be seen to reside within his hridayam.
The hridayam. Our true home. The only real security—to be one’s Self. Maharaj-ji told us that God, Guru, and Self are One. It was easy to believe while in his presence, swimming in the ocean of his total and unconditional love. Everything got much harder when he left his body and we still had to carry on somehow with our lives. But having had the experience, the knowing, of such extraordinary love made it all possible. It’s what pulled Ram Dass through the “fierce grace” of a massive stroke into the place where he could write Be Love Now.
How to describe such love? English is a language of doing, full of verbs and action. We have only one word for love. We love our children and we love sunny days and we love our lattés. In Sanskrit, a language of being, there’s a word to describe every possible permutation of love: love of wife or husband, love of lover, of child, of home, of friend . . . and on and on. Maharaj-ji’s love encompassed it all.
Some days, sitting in front of Maharaj-ji, it felt like the vast impersonal love of the high Himalayas, massive grandeur, humbling. At other times, it was the melting warm love of an infant in its mother’s arms, tender and intimate. Love has many faces. I went through every possible relationship with Maharaj-ji. At various times he would be my grandfather, father, mother, lover, or child. He was the king, who I would serve (ideally) as Hanuman served King Rama—in such service to love that the only momentary separation from Oneness is in order to enjoy the longing for union and the bliss of devotion.
When I finally get to page one, the words “Cosmic Consciousness” pop out. It’s hard to imagine nowadays, when yoga studios are as common as Starbucks and the sound of kirtan is everywhere, but back in the pre-Internet, pre-New Age bookstores Sixties, there were only a few books of Eastern wisdom that I had come across—Autobiography of a Yogi, the wondrous tale of Paramahamsa Yogananda; the Bhagavad Gita; and the Zen teachings of Alan Watts. At a particularly needy moment, I stumbled into a tiny library in Miami Beach and discovered High Priest by Timothy Leary. What a book! I had never seen marginalia before (which I thought was brilliant), and I had never heard the words “cosmic consciousness.” I was thrilled. I remember the moment of knowing that’s what I want!
I still do. But more than forty years later, I know that the “cosmic” part has to be embodied in everyday life . . . in love, in service to love. Meanwhile, to quote a friend from Peru, a priestess of an ancient Incan lineage, we’re here “to iron out the wrinkles of consciousness.”