I have many memories of the celebration of Sita Kalyanam at Rikhia in the presence of Paramahamsaji. What struck everyone who had known him before the late eighties was how familiar he appeared, having shaved both his head and beard, so the child-like beauty and radiance was completely uncovered for all to see. And how he shared that special unfathomable, unexplainable quality so freely with everyone. Certainly he spoke to us less than we had been accustomed to on previous occasions, but his presence seemed to be more personally felt through all the expressions of worship of God that we witnessed and participated in. This leads to the first main impression I was left with that the roads to God are many and all are to be respected no matter what path we have chosen personally.
By inviting and participating in the ceremonies of different forms of worship Shaivite, Muslim, Christian, Tantric and the wedding ceremony of Rama and Sita Paramahamsaji appeared to be showing how all forms of worship are equal, endorsing each of them by his presence. Also by participating and immersing himself in them so fully he seemed to infuse every moment of worship with his own special energy. This became both an example and an inspiration to us all to experience and understand acts of worship that we may have been ignorant of or mistrusted in the past. As an example, for the Christian Mass, Paramahamsaji emerged wearing the robes of a Christian priest. He went on to perform the communion sacrament, which seemed to put the life of the spirit itself into an act of worship that for many may have become, in the past, a ritual empty of any real meaning. This had a profound effect on many Westerners.
The second impression that I came away with was more in the form of an experience. Each morning at 4.30a.m. everyone would get ready to go to the Shiva temple near the Akhara for Paramahamsaji's darshan and to sing kirtan. It was one of the highlights of Sita Kalyanam. The energy was so high and at that hour, uninterrupted by the intellect, and with the sunrise during the course of the program, it was a very complete experience. On the second day, I was sitting with the other swamis, watching everyone come and settle in the dim early morning light and then wait for Paramahamsaji's arrival. A clear and distinct impression came over me that everything that was taking place was an illusion, that it wasn't really real, like being in a dream and knowing you're dreaming, that it was in fact maya. At the same time there was the impression, which I missed or overlooked at the time but recalled later when I looked back, that this experience of maya was going to continue and show itself in various forms.
And so it was! Over the rest of Sita Kalyanam different kinds of plays took place like an actual experience which seemed to be part of more than just mind, seeming so real, yet seeming like it was part of a dream and not real. For a few hours or a day, a particular aspect of illusion would come and it would be like being in a movie with the vibe, colours, characters, action and feelings of that movie. Then it would end and another would begin. It was as if, being close to guru's energy, different karmas and samskaras were being experienced or played out. So much so that I found myself saying many times, Swamiji, please remove this maya. Let me see it as it really is. I found I could be quite detached and get drawn in at the same time, like in a movie. So, for example, I would find myself thinking What am I doing here? and crying tears of joy and gratitude within the same moment. And whether this was part of the illusion or not I don't know, but it seemed like it was all guru's leela the play of life.
These gatherings with Paramahamsaji are very powerful sadhanas that bring us into contact with the reality within ourselves and, in turn, nearer to the cosmic reality. We can understand really only a very small part of the way guru's grace works but we can respond to his repeated message to realize God in every aspect of our lives through any means that we respond to within our own nature and find ways to serve the divinity of humanity in the form of anyone who suffers in body, mind or spirit. In this way we bring ourselves constantly nearer to guru's grace, and it is through grace alone that we may realize our true Self in all its completeness.
Jaya Guru Jaya Guru Jaya Guru Satyananda.