Last Wednesday, after finishing a week of teaching at Yoga on High in Columbus, Ohio, my hosts, Martha and Jerry Marcom took me down to their cabin on Lake Logan for a little celebratory fun. During the course of the evening we were listening to a local radio station that was playing a lot of great music. The old George Harrison song, “If Not for You”, came on and I was suddenly transported back to the time immediately following Guruji’s death. My old friend Barry Silver, currently teaching in Tokyo, put together a photo tribute to Guruji at that time, using “If Not for You” as the soundtrack. It had a profound affect on me when I first heard it, and here I was again nearly three years later experiencing the same feelings of grief and loss, love and gratitude, all welling up in a huge emotional surge. In a few minutes I was able to get a hold of myself and get back into the party spirit, but in retrospect I am amazed at how raw those feelings still are.
In the fourth chapter of the Yoga Sutras Patanjali says, IV.4 “Nirmana cittani asmita matrat”—Individual consciousness develops only in contact with another individual consciousness. This is the primary reason that it is considered necessary to have a Guru to make progress on the spiritual path. Our conditioning is so strong that it is difficult to break through it without some kind of assistance. Contact with the Guru allows a kind of energy transfer that is called Shaktipat. This can come through touch, through a glance, through a mantra, or even something as subtle as the gift of a flower. Taking yoga class with Guruji was an opportunity to receive Shaktipat through his touch when you were adjusted or by touching his feet at the end of class. Hanging out afterwards having coffee, chatting, and listening to him tell stories was an opportunity to have his Darshan, his “loving glance”—another form of Shaktipat.
In December of 2007 I spent a week in Mysore after teaching for two weeks in Goa. Guruji was 92 then and due to a series of health problems, had retired from teaching. He seemed thin and frail, but at the same time, was glowing from within, seemingly happy and at peace. Carol and Leela were with me and we all went to visit Guruji, Saraswati , and Sharath. Guruji was mostly quiet except when Saraswati brought out a large candy bar and presented it to Leela. “My chocolate!” Guruji pleaded in mock protest. We spent about an hour visiting and during most of that time Guruji was looking at me with a steady, loving gaze. I could sense a subtle yet perceptible light flowing in my direction. Two days later we returned to the States and I proceeded to get sicker than I have ever been. For two weeks I was purging via diarrhea, vomiting, coughing up huge amounts of phlegm, and breaking out in a bright red rash all over my torso. Maybe it was just a coincidence, but I couldn’t help but think that all this purging had something to do with that last evening with Guruji, that he was making a last ditch effort as the “dispeller of darkness” to assist me in releasing some of my “Halahala.”
From spending thirty years together, I developed a great attachment to Guruji. Patanjali says, II.7 “Sukha anusayi ragah”—Attachment is the consequence of pleasurable experiences. Certainly I derived a lot of pleasure out of my association with Guruji, and because of that it has been difficult to let go of my attachment to him. The Buddha said that attachment is the root of all suffering. For the moment I guess I’m still attached to my suffering. As Guruji would say, “Why crying you? Twenty-five dollar fine!”