gatineau morning.

gatineau morning.
photo by douglas mcarthur.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

The Greatest Power There Is.

(re-posted from last september.)

Gurus, spiritual teachers, do tend to roam in predatory packs, herds or gaggles along the flat lands of the Indian Deccan. Now, large numbers have migrated to the west and are stalking urban and rural centers even as I write this. This is, after all, the New Age. In 1976 I was meditating in silence with my teacher of that time, U.S.N. Goenka, and with about two hundred other people from around the world for six straight months in Igatpurri, India. We were not supposed to utter a word, have eye contact, read, write or exercise other than a little stretching. We were, however, encouraged to keep breathing.

Near the end of the six months an American fellow, who had joined more recently, for some reason or other got it into his head that Goenka was a Jim Jones-type-of-guy, the anti-Christ, a demon, a devil. I’d seen it all before. He was convinced we were all about to drink the poison cool-aid at teatime. I, on the other hand, had the advantage of actually knowing Goenka. He could be a trifle severe at times, but that was hardly reason enough to call in the FBI or the DEA. And I’d lived through innumerable tea times. There is strong evidence now, all these many years later, that the sugar was rotting our teeth. But otherwise the stuff was harmless. And if anyone had suggested leaving out the sugar I might’ve killed him or her myself. We’re talking serious sense deprivation here, don’t forget.
Only four days into his time there, the hapless fellow decided that Goenka was bad, broke the sacred vow of silence, and walked about the grounds crying out to try and save us.

It must’ve been strange and discomforting, not to speak of eerie, pleading passionately to a bunch of silent, slow-moving people who wouldn’t pay attention or even acknowledge him. I was in the bathroom brushing my teeth that morning when our American would-be saviour scurried in. The other people there at the time shuffled out as he ranted on about Goenka having taken over our minds. I continued to brush my teeth slowly, with concentration. I wasn’t about to rush the one small pleasure I had before the day of sitting on my zafu began. Brushing one’s teeth is not usually thought of as something one really waits for or looks forward to. After several months at that place, however, brushing one’s teeth felt like an orgy of sensual delight. It was four-thirty a.m.

As disconcerting as it may have been to plead to a group of silent and slow-moving zombies who wouldn’t pay any attention, I’m sure it was much worse trying to plead his case to me alone that morning. As he ranted on, I watched him through the mirror with a big, silly grin on my face. I just couldn’t resist. I continued to brush my teeth in silence, nodding my head up and down in complete agreement, grinning, with Colgate dribbling down my chin. Eventually he stopped, looked hard at me, and ran out into the darkness.

Soon after, we were all meditating in the main hall. Goenka was sitting on his platform and, since I had been at the monastery longer than most, I was allowed to sit in the front row facing him. There were hardly three weeks left; and the vibration in the room, to say the least, was deeply peaceful. There was a ringing in the room, the sound of profound and utter stillness.

I hardly heard the American fellow running in yelling, "I have to save you! I have to save you! You don’t see what he’s doing to you!" I didn’t even open my eyes. It seemed to be happening far away. I was unaware of him running up towards Goenka with a club until he reached the front; but by then it was too late. I doubt I could’ve moved quickly enough anyway. I saw the boy yell and lift the club up high even while Goenka’s eyes were still closed. But, just as the club reached its crest and was about to plummet downward, Goenka looked up at the boy with a power that shot through him as surely as if it had been a bullet. The fellow stumbled backwards, tripped down the steps and landed in a heap on the ground sobbing, the club lying harmlessly beside him.

And what was that power, you may ask? It was love. I saw it clearly. It was love, understanding, concern and complete detachment. Mostly, it was love.


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