Updated: Dec 7, 2021
While in India 2000
Mahesh shared a story as told to him by Swami Rama:
“Mahesh, see that white snake?”
“But Swamiji, you want me to kill a snake?”
“Yes. Do it now!”
So I killed the snake as instructed.
“Good,” said Swamiji in a softer voice, “now it will quickly be reborn as a human.”
Many sadhus take the body of a snake so they will not be bothered by followers or admirers, which is a big problem for the enlightened ones. The snake body is taken because they are so close to God Shiva.
Sadhus can be seen in a snake form when they go underground for the great religious practices, and then emerge on the worship day.
The last thing for a man to lose before his pure enlightenment is his ego. A snake keeps that ego in his quick bite, in his venom.
Third International Yoga Conference 2002
The work for the Third International Yoga Conference: Yoga and Human Potential, was vast. Our small staff had been writing and phoning speakers, taking in registration, dealing with the university we were renting for the conference, and preparing badges, programs, handouts. We were very tired.
In the last week before the opening day, I was typesetting the speaker biographies to give to all the conference participants so they could choose from among 24 speakers. I wanted each speaker to be appealing to the reader and so I was busy editing the biographies, fitting in the speakers’ photos, and trying to get everything to fit well on the pages. We decided to list speakers alphabetically so that no one was offended by placement. The first speaker listed was, therefore, Yogi Achala. That worked well because he is also the acharya of the Institute of the Himalayan Tradition and would open the conference.
In the midst of all this activity, I learned that our brother disciple had scheduled a weekend retreat on the same days as the international conference. I was saddened, realizing that his students would then be unable to attend. Next came the news that the printer had just broken down from too much work. The phones rang to state that the new published book, which was to be featured with author signings at the conference, was going to be late off the press and if we were lucky it would be delivered the morning of the conference. It was all too much!
So as I sat completing the last of the speaker biographies, looking at the line of small photos and great lives filling my computer screen, I felt abandoned. My Macintosh is tucked into the very corner of my tiny office and on the right wall are photos of my beloved Gurudev. I turned to his smiling face just twelve inches from my sad one.
“Swamiji,” I thought looking at him, “what is happening? Where are you? I really need you these days and you seem far away. You promised to be with me always, so why don’t I feel you near today?” His face seemed to smile a little more than usual, so I felt better, turned back to the computer screen and saw that we were ready to print.
As I removed the first page of the bios from the printer, I was astounded. In the little box next to Yogi Achala’s biography was my photo! How did it get there? Why? I ran to Yogi’s office and asked him calmly to check the page on my computer. He looked everything over, and thought it looked fine as I pointed out his photo and bio and all the others on the page. “Looks good,” he said. “Should we print it?”
Once again I hit the print button and picked up the page as it slowly emerged from the printer. There was my face smiling out from the top of the paper instead of Yogi’s. We were awe struck and started to laugh. This was definitely a trick of Gurudev. We turned to his photo on the wall and thanked him for being so near and listening so well. As long as everything we do is laid at his feet and done for others as usual, I must not worry.
For a moment I thought the picture of Gurudev winked, but that was probably my imagination. I sat down again and pushed the print button. Now the pages of biography printed exactly as they were on the computer screen. Everything was fine again, and the conference packets were filled with speaker biographies while my heart was filled with joy and love at the presence of my divine teacher.
The Blue Box of Life
Just after the meditation seminar was completed, with my mind still on the importance of daily meditation practice, two of the students presented me with a little blue box. They smiled and asked me to open it. It was lovely—a shining, round box, royal blue in color, the size of a British cup of tea. I opened the lid and found light blue tissue paper folded over carefully to cover what was beneath. Gently I pulled back the tissue paper and found a deep pile of soft cotton. Nothing else was to be seen, so I pushed my finger unto the cotton feeling around for any object hidden there. There was nothing! I looked up in confusion to find the students’ smiling, proud faces expecting a reaction, and instantaneously realized what they had given me. Cottonwood seeds!
For several days, the skies around Saint Paul had been filled with these dancing white puffs, feathers of delight tickling our imagination, open stars that floated on our breath. They increase the beauty of springtime, and work on the patience of gardeners. They swirl in circles around the curbs, brush against the cheeks of walkers, get caught in the grass to look a bit like a light snowfall. They tease the little ones into action. As children, we were told to catch these stars because they held the magic of a wish. “Catch one before it hits the ground, make a wish, and release it into the air. Your wish will definitely come true.”
Now this generous couple were telling me that they had several cottonwood trees on their property and that in the morning the woman sat in the grass on a twelve-inch pillow of their “cotton.” They said they just knew I would love some for myself. I did.
After receiving this special gift my mind raced. In my little box I held the explanation of one life’s paradoxes. So often we use the “nothing is here” phrase when we think of our life. We have our health, our family, our job, but we keeping thinking that we really have nothing to bring us to divinity.
“I’ve got nothing” is often heard in spiritual complaints. “I don’t live in a cave in the Himalayas. I don’t have a serious illness that I can offer up in pain. I don’t have sixteen children. I’m not even on death row. I have nothing to make me holy!”
So when I put my finger in the box, my first thought was, “There’s nothing here.” But then I quickly changed my mind. “Yes, there is!” It was not even hidden; the problem was in me not in the box. Isn’t that just like life? We have divinity in front of us all the time. The divine is in everything we do, every person we meet. The divine is with us in every breath, every thought. Divinity is in our every movement, every non-movement, every idea, every fulfillment of the idea. We simply fail to see it.
We chose this life of ours. We designed it, yet so often we look over our life and in the most perfect situation for our spiritual growth we say, “I can’t find God!” or “Why can’t I be holy? I don’t even know where God is.” Here we are with safety and health and love and knowledge, but we wish for a different setting. “If only I could live with Swamiji in the mountains.” “If only I had a husband and a family, I’d be holy.” “If only Swami Rama had not dropped his body and come here, I’d be his close disciple and really become enlightened.” “If only I had some money I could go to school, get a good job and become a great teacher.” We devise these plans in our head while living in our very own fulfilled plan with our destiny hidden right in front of us.
Thus, when I put my fingers in the little blue box, touching this glorious gift of nature and thinking, “There’s nothing here!” I almost missed the hundreds of tiny seeds, each with the possibility of becoming a huge, powerful tree. How are we unable to see the seeds in our own life? The sages have shared wisdom with us, have given us help in our inner journey, have sent us inspiration, love, and a multitude of spiritual practices. And sometimes they even give us a kick in the pants to help us remember who we are, where we are, and what we are doing. They want us to realize that we have the seeds of our divinity right in front of us, even when we don’t see them.
Look again in your own blue box. Feel around once more. Then stop and think. You might then realize the fullness, the possibilities, the hopes of what lay beneath your fingers. I ran after dozens of cottonwood seeds as a little girl, and now I know that I must have caught them all.