Jai Sri Hari to everyone in my beautiful OS.me family. I hope you are all warm and cozy on this cold winter morning. Swamiji celebrated his birthday on 30th November and I witnessed the divine celebrations. While witnessing it, my first thought was about everyone in the OS.me family who is missing out on this because they don’t have a live subscription. So here goes my attempt at chronicling the divine and mystic experience of watching guruji dance.
Swamiji was dressed in deep black robes which really accentuated the tejas flowing from his handsome face. The contrast was there for anyone to see. It’s like watching a full moon rise in the sky. All other stars fade away and you have eyes only for the moon. Seeing him in black robes, you get reminded of Sri Hari and the divine statue of Mahavishnu reclining in relaxation that can be witnessed in the Sri Rangam temple.
Swamiji talked about the famous Sufi poet Bulleshah and how everything in the Sufi culture is centered only towards the love of the divine.
“Behad Ramza Rasda Mera Dolan Mahi” is the line of the poem he picked up. I see the divine and I get swept away like a river in the ocean. You can listen to this poem here.
Swamiji talked about how Bulleshah describes his relationship with the divine which manifests and disappears everywhere. The divine makes the law, executes the law, is the punishing people, and is the one getting punished. Everyone is the same since the divine manifests in everyone.
Swamiji then narrated a story shared by Rumi. A shopkeeper in Arabia had a parrot with a crown of colorful hair. The shopkeeper loved his parrot dearly. He kept a bottle of a very expensive perfume in his shop and always warned the parrot not to fly anywhere near it. One day the shopkeeper left his shop and told the parrot not to fly around since he could break the bottle of oil. The parrot flew freely in the shop and knocked the perfume bottle, which smashed to pieces. The parrot his horrified and scared. The shopkeeper returned and screamed at the parrot. The parrot was so shocked that it lost its crown of hair. Seeing his hair on the ground, the parrot went into mourning. A couple of days later, the shopkeeper realizes his mistake and apologized to the parrot but the parrot did not utter a single word. The shopkeeper profusely apologized but the parrot maintained complete silence. One fine day, both the shopkeeper and the parrot were sitting in the shop gazing outside with blank eyes. A bald saint walked past the shop. The parrot has never seen anyone without hair in Arabia. He was so shocked he called out, “Hey Bald man, stop and tell me whose bottle of oil did you knock off to lose all the hair in your head”. Swamiji went onto emphasize that like the parrot we can only understand other people’s joy and sorrow through the lens of our mind. A parrot cannot comprehend how someone could shave their head joyfully and be a saint when he is mourning the loss of his crown.
Then Swamiji explained Bulleshah’s poetry that emphasized that when a man gets swept away by the love of the divine they transform. When someone tries to intellectually analyze the world, they cannot understand it. If the doer, the observer, the actor, the audience, is the same, then who is watching and who is performing actions. You can only understand the divine when you are immersed in love. Bulleshah is referencing this both in the context of his guru and the divine.
Swamiji goes on to say that the Sufi Tradition emphasizes that we have to follow the word of the guru but your goal is to realize the divine. You do not have to realize the guru. You can only recognize the divine when you recognize it in everyone. Once someone recognizes the true nature of the divine they surrender everything, since they realize the illusionary nature of the world.
Next, guruji talks about how to avoid shortcuts in life. Sufis learn from a guru and then discover their own truth. The guru was lighting the spark but the work was done by the devotee.
Finally, Swamiji went on to explain the last few lines of the poetry.
Aulia Shah Mansoor Kahave, Ramz Anal Haq Aap Sunave
Aape Aap Nu Suli Chadave
Kol Khaloke Has Da Mera Dolan Mahi
Swamiji talks about Mansoor Al-Haj and his guru Junaid Baghdadi. Mansoor had sentiments that are aligned with the Vedantic school of thought in India. Mansoor espoused that there is nothing to learn or nothing to gain. I am the ultimate truth. None of the religious leaders approved of Mansoor’s ideas. They thundered that Mansoor uttered sinful worlds and you have to be a kafir to speak such words. Junaid tried to explain to Mansoor that even if Mansoor strongly felt this, he should keep his ideas to himself or Mansoor could be beheaded. Mansoor went off to Mecca for a month and remained in silence for a year. He still helped people and performed miracles. As his fame spread, so did the word that this man claimed he was the ultimate truth. He was sentenced to death and hung after a few days. Bulleshah is telling god that you were the one who entered Mansoor’s heart and gave him this idea. You then sentenced him and hanged him. You were also the people who laughed as he was hanging by his neck.
Bulleshah is commenting that we have to see the divine on everyone and unless that surrender and love is not present, people cannot merge with the divine. When you have a direct relationship with god, why even maintain a list of people who love you or hurt you. When the sun is giving you direct light why look for energy elsewhere.
Swamiji finally went onto say that today everyone has to do a different kirtan where they would dance together. That’s when you felt you were transported to a parallel universe. I want you to take a second and soak in the entire scene.
A guru who found his liberation following the Hindu lineage, on his birthday, chose to play a song by Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. He swooned and dance to Nusrat’s heavy and rhythmic voice in front of Sri Hari. When he started dancing, I was instantly reminded of the Sufi Dervishes who dance in a trance. Both his hands were pointed to the sky and he went made 360-degree circles on his toes. While he was the sun rotating on his own axis, the other devotees rotated around him. You could see the absolute adoration with which they watched him and matched his moves. Swamiji started with his eyes open and very soon closed his eyes as he went round and round spinning in complete oblivion to the world around him.
I watched with tears in my eyes hunched in my car outside my son’s badminton class. I had been looking for my guru for a long time. I read Hindu books, tibetian books, Christian theology, Sufi books. My dearest wish was to find a guru who could unify these forms of worship and explain the hidden threads that connect them. My guru celebrated his birthday, with Sri Hari in the background, espousing the wisdom of the great Sufi saint Bulleshah and dancing to the tunes of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan.
The dance reminded all of us who watched that the essence of spirituality is in enjoying the presence of the divine and not just intellectually understanding it. I saw my guru drunk in the love of the divine, dance with complete abandon. Thank you, Swamiji for being OM SWAMI. There is no one like you in the entire world.
Jai Sri Hari!!